2024 BenchMarks Program Now Accepting Applications

(*Please note, the application requests artists to upload files of their designs via a Google form. Because of this, users will need to sign in to see the application. All application information is listed below)

ICDD’s popular BenchMarks Program returns this year and will see a selection of Iowa City’s downtown public benches return as fresh canvases for original, community artwork!

The BenchMarks program looks to artists and designers to transform benches in original ways that surprise, amuse, or alter our expectations of our shared urban space. Like last year, the benches in 2024 will face the playground, outside of the Iowa City Public Library. While designs that feel accessible or engaging for children and help channel the energy of a joyful play and gathering space are especially encouraged given this context, please remember kids are sophisticated thinkers too! All design proposals will be considered.

We aim for a diversity of bold, eye-catching designs that capture and contribute to the atmosphere and liveliness of the ped-mall, and designs that will hold interest for 365 days versus something of a one-liner. Submissions should be a clear and fully fleshed-out design. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or mocked up in Photoshop, a simple colored drawing is adequate, but remember that proposed designs should answer more questions than they raise!

If you have a mural project or something from your portfolio that would best represent your design (here’s something I did and I’d do the same motif on my bench) feel free to use an image of that existing project to convey your design. We find the best designs fully engage the whole bench, versus a singular isolated subject on a blank or plain background, and we will favor designs that are more ambitious in that way. Generally large expanses of white we’ve learned are good to avoid – think color, pattern, texture, environment.

Artists can submit up to three designs, and may be selected for more than one design. Chosen artists will receive $350 as well as a gift card to Blick Art Materials. Benches are painted in situ according to the artist’s own schedule, with a basic expectation that the location be kept neat and clean, materials packed in and packed out, and that the bench is finished and varnished before Arts Fest, the first week of June. We find most people are able to paint their benches in a couple of sessions or over a weekend. More detailed expectations and advice about materials and the process will be shared at the mandatory virtual orientation meeting.

Key Dates:

  • Application Period: Open now until April 21st
  • Acceptance Notifications: 4th week of April
  • Virtual Orientation: 4th week of April
  • Painting Window: Completed by June 1st

Don’t miss your chance to leave your mark on Iowa City’s downtown scene. Apply now and let your creativity shine!