The Spirit of Collaboration: Benches for Shelburne Museum

Located in Vermont’s scenic Champlain Valley, the Shelburne Museum showcases over 150,000 works of art and Americana. With 39 exhibition buildings, 25 of them historic, the museum recently celebrated the grand opening of an entirely new structure. The Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education (pictured below) will host lectures and events, artistic performances and film screenings along with changing exhibitions of fine art, folk art and design. To round out the exterior landscape, the museum sought the talents of Guild member Timothy Clark, requesting he design and build three outdoor benches for the building’s open, dramatic porch.
Pizzagalli Center at Shelburne Museum Vermont
Collaborative spirit is always alive and well in Vermont and it’s wonderful but not surprising to see a flagship arts organization sourcing fixtures and design components from local artisans. What makes the story of this particular project sort-of over the top is that every component of the bench-making process is local, too. From the wood to the stainless steel back slats, the bench materials are 100% Vermont-sourced.  Here’s a video clip of the furniture maker working out a mock-up of the piece to find the right angles and dimensions.
Bench seating was made from 3″ cherry stock purchased from Johnson Lumber and Lathrop Maple, both located in nearby Bristol. The steel tabs below were made for Tim by Robert Grant of Rand B Tooling (Orwell) and delivered in a nice wooden box. They hold the bench seats down to the base.
Vermont Guild of Furniture Makers Tim Clark Custom Bench Process
Each board is around 100 pounds when rough and the longest bench seat about 130 after trimming and cleaning up. Once the back supports are bolted into place and the base fastened to the seat, the bench then needs to be turned over and lowered to the floor. The 9′ bench pictured below weighs 260 lbs. and Tim used his chain fall to lift and lower it. Sometimes you really have to have a certain piece of equipment to get a job done!  
Tim Clark Shelburne Museum Bench In Process
Keeping the local theme going, the stainless steel back supports were cut, bent and drilled by Nop’s Metal Works and the fittings picked up in Middlebury.  A day spent sanding and wire brushing the steel made it presentable for display.  Not glamorous work and best done outside. Visit Tim’s blog for more of this action.
Collaborative Detail Shot Tim Clark Shelburne Museum Bench
The benches finished a bit ahead of schedule despite the very specific sourcing of the wood, a hopeful vision of the steel back supports and of course, the fickleness of time.  The helpful museum crew easily carried the benches from the van to their places.
Shelburne Museum Crew Installs Tim Clark Custom Bench
Here’s a closing shot of the benches at rest. 
Final Installation Tim Clark Custom Bench at Shelburne Museum
Vermont Collaboration Furniture Guild Member Tim Clark and Shelburne Museum
Next time you visit the Champlain Valley, check out the museum’s current roster of events and exhibitions. If you live locally and visit often, have a sit on one of Tim’s benches and savor what is really, truly Vermont! Don’t forget to visit our website for a look at other inspiring pieces and projects.

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