By: Carole Sharwarko
HF Chronicle July 15, 2020
Colorful and conveniently placed benches have popped up around downtown Homewood, the 2020 incarnation of an annual art installation.
Benches for Changes is a program facilitated by Homewood Business Association that benefits South Suburban Family Shelter, a Homewood-based nonprofit organization that provides services to families experiencing domestic violence.
This year’s project follows previous ones that saw dogs on parade and Adirondack chairs, locally integrated art that benefitted South Suburban Humane Society and Cancer Support Center, respectively.
Julie Lawton, director of Homewood Business Association, said the organization planned a while ago to use the 2020 art installation to benefit SSFS.
“We told them last year that we wanted to work with them because it’s their 40-year anniversary,” said Lawton, who is co-owner of UpsaDaisy Boutique in Homewood.
Twenty-two unfinished benches were bought by businesses, organizations and individuals, who assembled and painted them with a theme of their choosing.
To make the benches durable for outdoor use, Homewood Auto Body donated time and material to seal each bench with the same clear coat it uses on cars. The business also sprayed the dogs and chairs of previous installations, protecting them from the natural elements.
“One of the biggest contributors for us is Scott (Saalman) from Homewood Auto Body,” Lawton said. “They have offered to spray the final coat on any art installation we do. It’s a very costly thing for him to do.”
After being enjoyed by visitors to Homewood’s downtown throughout the summer, the benches will be auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting SSFS. Previous auctions were held at Homewood’s Fall Fest. Since the fate is uncertain for that event for this year, the auction will be tied in with SSFS’s annual gala in October.
While the two-seater benches encourage connection between people, Lawton said that can be tricky during a time when COVID restrictions keep us apart. However, someone can sit with a family member or a close friend for a chat, or sit alone for quiet reflection.
“You’re welcome to sit on the benches. We want people to sit on them and enjoy them,” Lawton said. “It’s nice to stop and just think about life and the wonderful experiences you have with the people closest to you.”