Annual art exhibition brings colorful benches to Wauconda's Main Street

Wildly colorful, hand-painted benches have appeared along a stretch of Main Street in downtown Wauconda, the latest edition of what's become an annual public art display for the town.

The Art on Main exhibition is the creation of local business owner Sara Carlson and other volunteers.

Twenty-seven benches comprise this summer's collection. Many have fun themes, including the Chicago Blackhawks, the creatures from the "Ghostbusters" franchise and dogs dressed as superheroes.

"I love seeing how everyone took the same blank canvas and created their own vision of Art on Main," Carlson told the Daily Herald in an email. "Truly, each is unique."

Carlson, owner of Wauconda's Aspire Boutique and co-owner of a store called Threads, launched the project in 2012 to provide public art. The effort also raises money for the beautification projects coordinated by a group called Main Street Attraction.

The exhibition featured painted Adirondack chairs the first two years.

"The first year there were 15 chairs, (and in) 2013 over 25," Carlson said. "Close to $20,000 has been raised in two years."

That total includes sponsorship fees of $250 per bench and proceeds from auctions at the end of each summer.

Organizers moved to benches this year to keep Art on Main fresh, Carlson said. But even though the form of the art has changed, the auctions haven't.

Silent bids will be accepted for the benches during a street dance planned for Aug. 30 in Wauconda. A live auction is set for Sept. 4, during a local farmers market.

Village Administrator Doug Maxeiner is among the project's supporters. From his office at village hall, which overlooks Main Street, he can see people walking down the block and stopping to examine each bench.

"I think it contributes to the overall sense of activity and interest on Main Street in Wauconda," Maxeiner said.

Mayor Frank Bart's a fan, too.

"I think it's a good way for people to express themselves," he said.

Bart hopes the benches will bring people to Main Street. Even if they don't bid on the seats, he said, people should come to check them out.

A similar public art installation recently launched in Lincolnshire. Giant apples have been decorated by local students, artists, businesses and community groups.

Mundelein is preparing a small public art project using a few local utility boxes.

For more information about Wauconda's project or to share comments about the benches, visit Art on Main's Facebook page,

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Colorful benches will decorate the sidewalks on Main Street in Wauconda this summer. Courtesy of Sara Carlson
Colorful benches will decorate the sidewalks on Main Street in Wauconda this summer as part of an annual public art exhibition. Each is marked with a tag that identifies the title of the artwork and its sponsor. Courtesy of Sara Carlson
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