Parksville Qualicum Beach will see “30 pieces of priceless artwork” installed in the summer of 2021, for people to enjoy throughout the region.
Thirty hand-crafted and hand-painted benches will mark the results of the Oceanside Bench Mark Project, a nearly year-long endeavor. The collaborative community project involves the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce, the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce, Ballenas Secondary students, the McMillan Arts Centre (MAC) and The Old School House Arts Centre (TOSH).
Of the 30 benches, 10 will be installed in Parksville, 10 more in Qualicum Beach, and the final 10 in the surrounding regional district.
According to Kim Burden, executive director of the Parksville chamber, potential sites have already been noted and just need to be “whittled down” to the final 30.
“Obviously we want to put them in areas where people will be, or will want to be,” he said.
As per the application form, the invitation to artists went public on Dec. 7 with the submission deadline set for Jan. 21. Two prize categories are listed on the form; the judge’s choice and the people’s choice, both prized at $500. Once installed for the summer, a map will also be drawn for community members to seek out all 30 benches and vote on their favourite.
After the summer, Burden said the benches will be auctioned for private sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to both chambers, TOSH, the MAC and the artists who painted them. The idea, Burden said, was first proposed over the summer by the Parksville chamber’s marketing and sales co-ordinator, Lisa Wallace.
“I though it was a really good concept, in terms of our presentation to the community and our involvement with the arts community.”
Jennifer Bate, executive director of the MAC in Parksville, said the panel of judges will consist of a broad spectrum of people throughout the area, including those she described as “not necessarily artists, but supporters of art,” as well as the Qualicum Beach and Parksville mayors.
TOSH executive director Illana Hester suggested artists submit “something tasteful” but discouraged political statements or organizations promoting themselves.
Hester said the theme is about inspiration, particularly the inspiration derived from the Parksville Qualicum Beach community, and the “wait.”
“So much of COVID has been about waiting. And what better place to wait than while you’re sitting on a bench near the ocean?”
Byron Ayers, the woodworking teacher helping with the construction of the benches at Ballenas Secondary, said they’re currently being crafted by eight Grade 11 and 12 students who have worked on them for nearly four weeks already. Ayers said he likes to contribute to community projects such as this “because the kids can then take ownership” of their work. “They won’t skateboard on them, they won’t carve them. And if they do see somebody carving them they’ll go up and say ‘hey hang on, I helped build that,’” he said.
The cedar wood provided to the students was supplied by Weatherwise Cedar Products, said Burden, and all the project organizers are grateful for their contribution as “they really stepped up in a big way to help us.” Weatherwise Cedar Products will be also add the final finish to ensure the artwork remains as “lasting pieces.”
“I’m really excited about this project, the whole community aspect appeals to me. It’s something that’s out of the normal things that the chambers do, in terms of our events. I think its going to enhance the tourist industry,” said Burden.
Bate hopes the project instills an appreciation for the “expansive artistic environment” in Parksville Qualicum Beach, and that artists who have never painted a bench before will embrace this project to gain “significant exposure.”
Hester would like for people to “get the flavour of resiliency” from the project.
“There’s still so much opportunity for beautiful things and beautiful moments to be shared,” she said.