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Girl Scouts help create bench for Carpenter Nature Center

Junior Girl Scouts and artist Estela de Paola de Lerma tour Haas Manufacturing. Pictured are, from left to right, Emalie Marion, Brianna Albertson, Brooke Flanders-Johnson, Piper Dutton, Julia Haas (front), Jessica Haas, Audrey Fredricksen, Estela De Paola de Lerma and Mitch Haas.1 / 3
Junior Girl Scouts and artist Estela de Paola de Lerma work on designs for a new Bench Project for Carpenter Nature Center. Pictured are, from left to right, Emalie Marion, Audrey Fredricksen, Brianna Albertson, Piper Dutton and Estela de Paola de Lerma.2 / 3
Releasing a dark-eyed junco at Carpenter Nature Center is Junior Girl Scout Jessie Haas. Also pictured are Karla Haas, left, and Brianna Albertson.3 / 3

A troop of Junior Girl Scouts from Hudson are working with Minneapolis-based artist Estela de Paola de Lerma to design and create a community art project in the form of a bench for Carpenter Nature Center (CNC) in Hastings, Minnesota. This unique work of art will be the seventh in a series of Bench Projects organized by The Phipps Center for the Arts in partnership with the St. Croix Valley Foundation. This new bench is scheduled to be unveiled on Sept. 24, as part of Carpenter's annual Fall Raptor Release event.

The Bench Project is a regional community art project that engages young people to work with local citizens and a facilitating artist to design, create, locate, and care for a bench -- a unique site-specific work of public art. Existing Bench Projects are located in Bayport and Marine on St. Croix, Minn., as well as Hudson, Prescott, Somerset, and St. Croix Falls. For more information on these projects, go to or

The specific objectives for this year's project with the Junior Girl Scouts and CNC are to involve youth in the artistic design, location, and construction of a bench that expresses their understanding of the St. Croix River and watershed, and to build an appreciation and a sense of responsibility among participating youth for river protection.

Work on the new Bench Project began in March of this year when the Scouts attended "Owls and Other Masters of the Sky" at CNC, an event that was presented in partnership with the World Bird Sanctuary from St. Louis, Mo. Throughout the spring, they visited CNC together three additional times, in March to make maple syrup with CNC staff; in April to help with the monthly bird-banding activity; and in May to volunteer at the Apple Blossom race to sort the recycling. During that time, they also met with de Lerma to participate in a 2D/3D art activity, with K-2 Communication/Interaction Disorder (CID) students from Willow River Elementary School to work on a similar design activity together, and to tour Haas Manufacturing, which will be providing many of the materials to be used in this bench.

Earlier this summer, several of the Scouts also participated in the Just Add Water art and science program at The Phipps. In these week-long classes, they worked with naturalists and local artists to learn about and make art about the importance of the St. Croix River.

On June 25, the Scouts once again gathered at CNC with de Lerma, bringing with them the memories of the many experiences they have had throughout the development of this project, to create small models of potential bench designs using simple materials including duct tape, cardboard, and markers. "I enjoyed making the maquettes and using the knowledge that we got from learning about the river and working with Estela," said Piper Dutton, Junior Girl Scout.

The models will be on display at CNC throughout July and at the St. Croix Valley Scramble annual golf fundraiser for CNC on July 18. Viewers will be encouraged to vote on their favorite design and asked what they like most about that design. The Girl Scouts, de Lerma, and CNC staff will review these responses in early August. From this input, they will work together to create a scale model of the final project. Throughout August and early September, the bench will be built and placed at CNC for the unveiling ceremony on Sept. 24.

The CNC Bench Project is made possible with support from the AnnMarie Foundation, St. Croix Electric Co-op, St. Croix Valley Foundation, an anonymous donation to The Phipps in support of community projects, and local foundations.

For further information, contact Anastasia Shartin, visual arts director, at (715) 386-2305, ext. 103.