Shepherdstown W.Va. – Strolling through Shepherdstown one may look at the sidewalk to make sure they do not miss a step, peer into the shop windows, or at the greenery the town takes such good care of. However, there is a new sight added to the town.
Known as The Bench Project, hand-painted wood benches have been placed along the sidewalks on East German Street. The project is part of local nonprofit group Shepherdstown Shares formed in response to the COVID-19 crisis in the area.
Morgan Sell, the artist of the rainbow bench located near McMurran Hall, said that she got involved in The Bench Project through a friend and leader of the project, Annie Wisecarver. Sell also said, “The project was hugely impactful for me as I felt I had a real chance to give back to the town that I was raised in.”
Sell’s bench has two aspects flowing through it, the first being a focus on LGBTQIA+ advocacy and the other surrounding environmental activism.
“I hope it [the bench design] conveys to the Shepherdstown Community and visitors that we are an inclusive town that celebrates diversity as well as a town that prioritizes our natural landscape, rivers, and streams,” said Sell
Sell also noted that she, “feels that the benches are bringing people together quite literally, but also in a way where folks are able to appreciate what is often forgotten: the beauty of the ordinary through art.”
“These benches may just be a place to eat for some, but in regards to my rainbow bench, I hope it is a reminder to the college students, visitors, and residents that they are beautiful and worthy, just as they were made.”
Sell is also director of campus ministry for the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, leading the student group on campus known as @shepconnections.
The goal of The Bench Project is to provide work for local artists and artisans, according to the organization’s website. You can view the benches being painted in real time on weekends at the Trinity Church. The benches were built in two different sizes, one for a couple and the other for families by local carpenter, Alex Douglas.
To learn more about Shepherdstown Shares visit shepherdstownshares.org.