Art in the City: From the Artist’s Point of View.

July 18, 2020
  • What is Art in the City again??

    I know, I know … it’s HARD to keep track of it all. Especially when time feels like it’s flying by while also standing still. Strange times we are living through … but in the wise words of my mom … the only way through it is through it. So if you knew about the Art in the City Bench Campaign and forgot, or you are hearing about it for the first time, here it is…

    Explore Children’s Museum 2020 “Art in the City Bench” Campaign is a collection of stunningly beautiful (seriously – you should see these things!!), one of a kind (you’ll never see another bench quite like ‘em), original works of art (every artist had total free reign on what to do with their bench) created by local artists who are dedicated to supporting their community. This awareness and fundraising campaign was made possible by local community members who believe in serving the greater good by supporting an emerging children’s museum in Sun Prairie. There you have it, the website’s description of what Art in the City is, along with my 2 cents, but seriously, if you haven’t seen the benches yet – DO IT! You can thank me later.


    Now you want to see those benches don’t you … 

    Before you hear from the bench artists themselves I will tell you where you can find them. Not the artists silly, the BENCHES! Pack up the family and maybe some snacks and head to these Sun Prairie parks … Renstone, Sheehan (both East and West), Stoneridge Estates, Orfan, Carriage Hills, Wyndam Hills and Wetmore. We KNOW you fall in love with at least one bench (everyone on the ECM team, and my mom, and my grandma, have at least one we are hoping to win the bid for!) When you do narrow your list down to one (or maybe two??) head to our website auction page,, to place your bid. The auction ends on August 14 at 6pm, so don’t wait!


    Ok, now what you’ve been waiting for … Let’s meet the artists!

    I’m not going to tell you everything about the artist’s in the blog post … you may get distracted before you finish reading all about the amazing artists (I know I would .. I usually can’t go 5 minutes without hearing “MOM!” from somewhere in the house). I encourage you to go to the auction page on Explore’s website and click on the bench photos to see more pictures of that bench and read the full artist profiles. They have some pretty great stuff to say … and much more eloquently than me.  

    A couple of our artists are the future leaders of tomorrow and student’s in Sun Prairie, Matthea Jones painted the “All Colors” bench and Aynsley Hansen painted the “Bee Happy” bench. A few well known local business owners, such as Kendall and Andrea of Brass Tacks (the “Gloria” bench), Stephenie Hamen (the “Playful Prairie Sunrise” bench), Marta Hansen (the “What a Wonderful World” bench) and Erica Beckman (the “Fickle Ribbon” bench). A couple of dedicated SPASD teachers, Anna Acker painted the “Strength in Colors” bench and Jennifer Rogers painted the “Sit and Count with Me” bench and another teacher from Cottage Grove, Charlotte Miller painted the “Fingerprints” bench. The team at Explore was able to get a few of well known artists, Zach Bartell (you may know his art from the HUGE mural inside Full Mile) painted the “Lava Lamp” bench and Briony Foy (a regular at Madison’s Art Fair on the Square) painted the “Dot” bench.  The family behind Dark Star Art (including one of Sun Prairie’s own police officers) painted (using a super cool technique, indicative of their signature artwork) the “Night Tide” bench. And of course some regular folk (like myself – I wood burned the “Burnt Boho” bench just to try out the technique – fun and smelled de-licious), Kari Nelson painted the “Children of the World” bench. Mary Petrie painted the “Blue Butterfly” bench, Beth Bandli painted the “Plant. Grow. Harvest.” bench. Courtney Bayens painted the “Wildflowers” bench. And Rita painted TWO benches (!!), the “I Spy” bench with an original I Spy rhyme specifically written for the bench and the “Frog & Toad” bench, a nod to a classic piece of children’s literature. A simple “thank you” could never express the gratitude the team at Explore has for the thought, time, energy and talent each artist put into creating these truly amazing, one-of-a-kind gems. 


    We know they are amazingly talented artists, but here, they share in their own words why art = life.

    “Art encourages self expression and creativity and can build confidence as well as a sense of individuality. Studying art can help to develop critical thinking and the ability to interpret the world around us. Creativity can help with wellbeing; improving health and happiness. Art brings communities together and enriches our lives.” – Anna Acker

    Wow! Art is truly powerful stuff! Did you know it could do all that?? I’m sure I did subconciously, but to hear Anna put those feelings into words gives me all the feels.

    My own work is based on exploration and discovery with one idea leading to another. Developing our senses of Curiosity and Imagination are not only important for a rich inner life, but also help us adapt and contribute to our greater communities. Those two things lead to competence, innovation and self confidence- they let us learn from the past and dream of the future.” – Briony Foy

    That description of art sounds like life itself to me … “one idea leading to another” … just like with art, we can do our best to map out a solid plan and then, well, life just happens. Kind of takes the pressure off doesn’t it??

    “Young children can experiment and create and express themselves through art.  It can be a way of sharing ideas and concepts that they are wrestling with.  They can also learn new ways to process and see their world through shapes, colors, and mediums. This foundation can set them up for a lifetime of hand-on creativity and teaches them that creativity and self-expression is not only okay, but encouraged.  Art can shape a movement, comment on the current state of our world, bring people together, and force tough conversations. They can learn about our history and the history of various eras and cultures through a variety of art forms from our past. From music to dance to craft to art, we need to encourage the next generation to use their voices in unique and artistic ways in order to mark where we are in time and to move us forward to the next level, to where we should be.” – Stephenie Hamen

    You know I am all about how the opportunities around a child create their world view and their abilities to navigate said world (hello, children’s museums!!). Creativity = problem solving skills. Problem solving skills = resiliance. Creativity is not just about expression, its about leading a life of productivity, optimism, innovation and leadership. That’s some serious stuff. 

    Art is an expression of our lives and the world we live in. It is a means of communicating with and inspiring each other. Art enables us all, young and old, to use different parts of our brain and practice creative skills, allowing us to think about things in different ways, express ourselves, and serve as a catalyst to creative and empathetic approaches to solving problems and living our lives together.” – Ami Vehalen of Dark Star Art

    If we can only do a couple of things, let it be communicate and inspire one another. Please.

    I believe that art is a critical component of self-expression and discovery. The process of creating art can start or be rediscovered at any age. Art has great therapeutic value and should be a part of life that we all engage in regularly. Anyone can create art and if everyone did I believe we’d be more in touch with who we are on a deeper level.” – Erica Beckman

    Art as therapy. I am totally on board with this. If we are free to express ourselves we are free to be ourselves and see the value in other people being themselves as well. Deep.

    Are you feeling as inspired as I am? Now go visit the benches, and when you do, tag us in your photos @explorechildrensmuseum on Facebook and @grow_with_ecm on Instagram.


    In our next blog post …

    The Art in the City bench artist’s have more to say! In our next blog post we will hear from them about why they think a children’s museum will be great for Sun Prairie and the surrounding communities! Stay tuned …

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Bench Campaign 2020: “Putting the ART in Party!”Why Build a New Children’s Museum in Sun Prairie?
All comments (2)
  • Rebekah Burford
    September 15, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    I didn’t know there was a Children’s Museum in Sun Prairie!! How cool! Where is it located?

    • Katey
      @Rebekah Burford
      September 16, 2020 at 10:46 am

      Hi Rebekah! No children's museum in Sun Prairie yet, but we are working to bring one! Thank you for your interest in the project, you […] Read MoreHi Rebekah! No children's museum in Sun Prairie yet, but we are working to bring one! Thank you for your interest in the project, you can subscribe to our newsletter for updated information on our progress. Take care! Read Less


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