19 custom-designed benches unveiled for Van Go’s flagship ‘Benchmark’ program

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Artist Jafiya Birdling helps unveil the bench he created in memory of Cody Young.

Arts-based social service nonprofit Van Go unveiled 19 custom-designed benches to the community on Friday, the culmination of the organization’s annual “Benchmark” program.

Benchmark is Van Go’s summer program for youths ages 14 to 18 who are part of the organization’s JAMS employment program. Each apprentice artist is partnered with a client in the community, and the artist designs and produces a custom bench for that client. To date, Van Go has created more than 400 benches, many of which can be seen in public places throughout Lawrence.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Artist LeStat Wilson pulls the sheet off her bench created for client NEU Physical Therapy.

Van Go’s apprentice artists have worked for eight weeks this summer to create the custom benches that were presented on Friday.

One of the artists, Ian Hoopes, has participated in Van Go for the past three years and is now a team leader. Shortly before this year’s benches were unveiled, he expressed his gratitude for having been able to work at Van Go and how working there helped him overcome struggles with anxiety and depression.

“Van Go has taught me how to express myself and how my actions affect others,” Hoopes said. “I truly believe that if I didn’t work here and (hadn’t) done the things that I have, I would’ve continued to dig that hole until it collapsed on top of me.”

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Van Go artist Ian Hoopes speaks to the audience gathered to see this year’s “Benchmark” program pieces unveiled to the public. Hoopes was the artist who created the bench for the Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County.

Those interested in commissioning a bench for next year’s Benchmark program can contact Van Go at us@van-go.org or visit the organization’s website.

Below are this year’s apprentice artists and their clients, according to Van Go:

• Barack Bennett-Robinson; Pretzels Inc.

• Jafiya Birdling; memorial bench for Cody Young

• Gus Cordova; in honor of Bob Dinsdale

• Rhylea Dailey; J. Wilson’s

• Davon Davis; in honor of Kevin Willmott, sponsored by Kay and Tom Carmody

• Oliver Elwell; memorial bench for Tudy Youngberg at KU Endowment

• Katie Hall; memorial bench for Elisabeth Spainhour

• Asha Hanson; commissioned as a surprise bench

• Ian Hoopes; Treatment and Recovery Center of Douglas County, sponsored by Shade Little

• Tiffany Jimboy; Rose Foster, a gift from friends

• Tabitha O’Konski; Starside Elementary in memory of Kristi Switzer

• Cornelio Ortega-Perez; memorial bench for Burdett Loomis

• Weston Pilgram; Jo and Jerry Portillo

• Ariel Sellars; Tenants to Homeowners

• Anamaria Taylor; Ad Astra Eye

• Joli Taylor-Borges; LMH Internal Medicine, in memory of Dawn Willard

• Gracelynn Williams; The Raven Book Store, sponsored by Bev Wilson

• LeStat Wilson; NEU Physical Therapy, sponsored by Bev Wilson

• Munira Yunusah; in honor of Maarten van Swaay

photo by: Austin Hornbostel/Journal-World

Artist Tiffany Jimboy unveils her bench, commissioned by Rose Foster.


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