WSA student Charlotte Connelly reflects on her BENCH public art commission

Charlotte working on her bench

Charlotte Connelly, first year BA Graphic Arts student at Winchester School of Art, has written about her experience contributing to the BENCH series of public art commissions from Solent Showcase Gallery and GO! Southampton. 16 benches from the pedestrianised high street of Southampton have been transformed into works of art by local artists – one of which was Charlotte!

Read on to hear all about how her design made it from paper to park bench.

“Before lockdown, I mostly painted for my Instagram account (charlottesketching) but with a sudden load of spare time available I thought it was a good time to branch out. I saw a post with a picture of the benches on Southampton High Street with the words “YOUR ART HERE!” imposed on the slats. I normally hesitate entering these open calls, aware that I’m an 18 year-old who paints portraits for Broadway actors, but it was too good to miss. 

I got the chance to send in 2 designs – one of the numerous iconic images associated with Southampton and the other of shipping containers – designed to look like they made up the actual bench. 

Charlotte’s bench design

When I got a call from the Gallery to tell me the container design had been selected I was delighted! Next thing I was taking up residency in my garden shed. Maybe some artists have a dedicated studio to work in but mine comprised an old kitchen cabinet to balance the slats on and a hairdryer to help them dry as the ‘studio’ was so cold!  It took me around 4 weeks, 3 audiobooks, 5 paint brushes and 4 marker pens to finish the bench.  

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Kate Maple and the rest of the Solent Showcase Gallery team for letting me be a part of this fantastic project. As a student at University of Southampton, it has given me so much confidence to think I’ve made quite a strong first impression.” 

The finished bench in situ on the High Street in Southampton City Centre
(Photo: GO! Southampton)

Solent Showcase Gallery and GO! Southampton partnered together with support from Balfour Beatty and Southampton City Council to create BENCH as part of a city-wide project that aims to activate the public realm.

Discover more about BENCH via the Solent Showcase website.

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