Benchmark achievement: Students recreate torn-down public art piece - with Kristin Anthony's help
As Nikki Dale, a senior at Kestrel High School, used a trowel to put a cement coat on a bench she and fellow art students were building outside the charter school's office, she said she would be back to put decorative tiles on it, even if it was after graduation.
"This is something I can show my kids, and say I worked on this project when I was in high school, and show people how important art is in our community," said Dale.
Amid controversy over the symbols used on the original bench's tiles and safety concerns about some jagged edges, the City of Prescott took down the bench built in Granite Creek Park by Prescott College student Kristin Anthony and community members last October.
Kestrel creative arts teacher Ron Harvey said he thought it was a teachable moment and spoke with his students about it.
"We talked about art and controversy, how art needs to be talked about to be vital, its impact, and how it was a reflection on our city and the people who built it," Harvey said. "The saddest thing was that 200 people put their heart and soul into the bench, and when it disappeared, it was just such a shock."
One of the students suggested the class rebuild the bench on private property, Harvey said.
"We wanted to show people it's a big deal, and that we could rebuild it. (The city) overreacted," said Kaleb Loomis, a sophomore. "Since we've been doing this, random people have started helping us."
Among those is Kristin Anthony herself, who helped mix cement and trowel it on the rebuilt bench Thursday morning while she was back for Prescott College's graduation.
"When the city told me what they wanted changed on the original bench, I broke down and cried, because I thought this is what makes it special," Anthony said. "Then Ron called and told me about the Kestrel students' plans to rebuild the bench, and that was just the phone call I needed."
Anthony said she's working with students at a Massachusetts school who are building their own version of the bench, and she's heard from other communities working on similar projects as well.
As the Kestrel students let people know about their plan, they received so many donations from the community that all the students needed to do was the planning and the physical labor, said Harvey, noting that no tax dollars were used to rebuild the bench.
"I'm thrilled the students were able to do this with community support and community volunteers," said Principal Jana Truman.
In March, when the ground was no longer frozen, students used shovels to dig about six inches into the ground in front of the school's office. After that, "We used sandbags and chicken wire to shape the bench, then we started putting on the cement," said Brian Timm, a junior, as he did just that, smoothing a layer.
Harvey reminded students to push down on their trowels a little while moving the cement. "Just go over these edges and smooth them out," he said.
Emily Sanchez, a senior, said she enjoyed "building something with our own hands from the ground up."
Nature West Inc. Landscape Services donated 15 tons of sand. Anthony donated sandbags as well as tiles salvaged from the original bench. A person in Walker donated piles of mosaic tile, and many other people dropped off donations of tile, cash and other items at the school office, Harvey said.
"It really shows the positive things this community can bring about," Harvey said.
Harvey encourages people to check out Kestrel High School's Facebook page to find out when they'll be putting tiles on the new bench so community members can help the students finish the project.
Diona Placencia, a senior, summed up the group's feelings when she said what was most satisfying about the project. "We got to create something that had once been torn down."