ROCKPORT — The Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, in conjunction with the Farnsworth Art Museum, announced the winners of its “Designing Benches” competition Friday, Jan. 25, at the Center’s Messler Gallery in Rockport. The gallery displayed the top 15 entries. The challenge was to design new gallery benches for the Farnsworth. Forty-four entrants submitted 77 designs since July, which were culled to 15.
The top winning bench designs were those of Libby Schrum, of Camden, and Eban Blaney, of Edgecomb, and their benches are to be placed in the museum. The benches are a functioning part of the museum and are for visitors to sit on.
“They’re all museum pieces,” said Farnsworth Executive Director Chris Brownawell, announcing the winners to the crowd of approximately 150. “But there’s a question of functionality, as well. People have to sit on them. People have to clean them and clean around them.”
Clean lines and sturdiness seemed to be a prerequisite in determining a winner.
Victoria Allport, of Lincolnville, is the Center’s gallery manager.
“The Farnsworth is doing an exhibition of Shaker Furniture this summer," she said. "They wanted some new benches and came to us asking for craftsmen recommendations. We suggested a competition. For our exhibition we decided to do an art show as well. All the paintings you see on the wall are Maine artists representing seating. We curated it to compliment the benches.”
Peter Korn, founder and executive director of the center, said the center will be celebrating its 20 year anniversary this year.
“I’m excited about a lot of things with the show," he said. "I love the variety of the well designed work. The design community of Maine has developed a lot of vitality.”
Michael Komanecky, chief curator for the Farnsworth, said it was an exciting project to be involved with.
“The show and all the pieces, it’s a wonderful exhibition," he said. "And, yes, it was very hard to pick a winner, I’m thrilled there were two. Seating for our visitors varies widely. Some of it goes back to the '50s, when the museum opened. I’m sure our visitors will enjoy these in the gallery.”
Brownawell echoed those sentiments.
“It’s been incredibly exciting to partner with the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship," he said. "We needed benches and we could have bought them from a catalog, but to involve the Maine artisans has been really great. And looking forward to the future, this probably won’t be the last time we do something like this.”
Winner Libby Schrum said she was a student at the center 12 years ago and has been doing design work ever since.
“It feels great,” she said. “I’m excited to be part of their [Farnsworth] collection.”
Eben Blaney said: “I’m very surprised. There really are a lot of great benches here.”