Welcome to your seventh edition of Mind Bend-ers, a special feature offering you the inside scoop on quirky Bend history and offbeat trivia.
Bend has a reputation for unique public art, and you can see plenty of it if you stroll around town or travel the Roundabout Art Route.
But one of the city’s most beloved pieces of art is actually, well…Art.
“Art” is the nickname given to the statue at the corner of Franklin and Wall in Downtown Bend. Created by artist Richard S. Beyer, this seven-foot cast aluminum sculpture was named The Traveler when it was placed there in 1982.
Since “The Traveler” doesn’t fit well on a driver’s license and makes an awkward match.com profile, he’s been called Art for as long as anyone can remember.
The sculpture was commissioned by Art in Public Places as part of an effort to rejuvenate Bend’s downtown area following a long recession. It was designed to capture Bend’s historic ambience, with the bench serving as a friendly gathering place for downtown visitors.
The artist modeled Art after a homeless acquaintance he’d met while working on a similar project in Seattle. He added a few ducks from nearby Mirror Pond to keep Art company, and depicted Art staring into his empty wallet.
The wallet seldom stays empty.
Bend visitors and residents are fond of filling it with all manner of treasures, ranging from coins to flowers to popcorn.
They’ve also embraced Art by…well, embracing him. Literally.
Rarely a day goes by that Art doesn’t pose for photos with a visitor’s arm slung fondly around his shoulders, and folks are keen on dressing him up, too.
Bend photographer Jill Rosell has photographed Art numerous times over the years, and posts many of the photos on her Facebook page. She’s seen people adorn Art with everything from umbrellas to a pumpkin hat to custom-knitted accessories courtesy of Bend’s resident “yarn bomber.”
Others have reported spotting Art wearing bunny ears, Santa hats, Valentine sweaters, and lacy lingerie. Though he vehemently denies the latter, he insists, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
After years of suspecting Art longed for a lady friend, Rosell took matters into her own hands last weekend. She arranged a date between Art and her friend, then photographed the date for posterity.
Though Art was a bit stiff at first, he warmed up eventually.
We’re expecting a June wedding.