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Visitors to the Smith College Museum of Art will have the chance to rest on 11 different works of art, each individually created by a distinguished New England artist. The newly commissioned pieces -- benches in wood, bronze and glass created through a project called "Sit Up & Take Notice!" -- are part of the museum's permanent collection. Unlike most works in the collection, however, they are meant to be touched -- indeed, sat upon.

The bench project is also intended to showcase New England's exceptional strength in the field of fine furniture making. According to Curator of Painting and Sculpture Linda Muehlig, "the fact that five of the participating artists live and maintain studios locally is a testament to the wealth of talent and high level of artistry in the Pioneer Valley." The Bench Artists Benches were created by Silas Kopf of Northampton, Mass.; Kristina Madsen of Southampton, Mass.; Judy Kensley McKie of Cambridge, Mass.; Rick Wrigley of Provincetown, Mass.; Rosanne Somerson of Westport, Mass.; Hank Gilpin of Lincoln, R.I.; Mark Del Guidice of Norwood, Mass.; Dale Broholm of Wellesley Hills, Mass.; Wendy Stayman of Conway, Mass.; Jason Berg of Florence, Mass.; and Polly Cassel of Northampton, Mass.

Polly Cassel traditionally works in two ways: either buying old pieces to embellish or creating new works that she carves or gouges to give them an old look. Vibrant colors and organic forms are often employed in her furniture. She has described her approach to her pieces as "characterized by volumetric forms, organic and hard-edge lines and surface embellishment." The Boston Globe has featured her work and she received an "outstanding achievement" award from the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston. Her work has been exhibited in solo and many group shows at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (from which she received the MFA degree in furniture design), the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York and elsewhere. Photograph by Jim Gipe.

Silas Kopf is known throughout the woodworking world for his expertise in creating decorative designs or "paintings" from pieces of wood veneer. His work has been exhibited nationally and is also held in private collections. Most recently Kopf designed the veneer for a grand piano for Steinway & Sons. His techniques include the cutting and assembling of tiny pieces of wood from all over the world. Among them are satinwood, bubinga, ash, rosewood and maple. When the delicate, thin sections of wood are fitted together to create an image, the contrast of the different colors and patterns creates a sense of three-dimensionality. The furniture Kopf designs becomes a canvas for his mosaic artistry. It may take up to several hundred pieces of wood to cover a single square foot. A picture that other artists may produce with a paintbrush, Kopf creates with the intricate composition of small pieces of wood. Photograph by Jim Gipe.

New Features of the
Renovated Museum

Museum Restrooms
as Functional Art

Museum Benches
Celebrate New
England Artistry

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