“Knowing [McAllister’s] great work with upcycling products we decided it would be a great educational tool for people visiting campus and also a functional space,” said assistant professor Roslynn Brain, who works in USU’s sustainability department. “It’s something I want to continue — working with artists to incorporate art within the gardens we’re putting in throughout the community.”
USU–Moab Dean Steve Hawks said he hopes the bench, which sits underneath the garden’s pergola, will also help make the campus a more inviting place for people to gather together.
“We are trying to create more community space at the campus where students, faculty, community members can gather,” Hawks said. “Secondly, the bench is made of recycled materials in the spirit of sustainability, which fits well with the permaculture garden.”
Similar to the rest of the campus’ garden, which includes educational materials about the garden’s water harvesting functions and native plants, Brain said a sign will be posted to tell visitors about the bench’s materials. In addition to incorporating salvaged bicycle spokes, McAllister formed the bench using old-growth barn wood from Castle Valley and a fence torn down during the demolition of Bert’s Auto Salvage south of town.
“I just love that the community is going to be able to experience it,” McAllister said. “This wood has a history — there’s history here that should be saved and preserved.”
McAllister said he enjoys creating art from material that otherwise would be thrown away.
“That’s why I’m drawn to it, I actually like the experience of finding it,” McAllister said. “It’s not just that I like working with it, I like the salvaging, the discovery.”
Dailey Haren, who helped build the bench, said that as someone who grew up in Moab, it’s often difficult to see the rapid changes to the town. Projects like these that use old material from the town’s past, she said, will help preserve that history.
“It’s helping mitigate waste, but it’s also helping preserve our history. In the blink of an eye, all of a sudden [Bert’s Auto Salvage] is gone. These stories, these items that hold so much meaning, so much history and nostalgia for the community if you blink it can all be gone and no-one’s going to remember,” Haren said. “It’s nice that all these artists are preserving it, re-forming it, and working it back into the new fabric of the community.”
Unlike a bench made of plastic, Haren said, the community can feel more connected to a piece of art like McAllister’s.
“It has a big effect on people not to just have brand new plastic stuff,” Haren said. “It has a much more visceral, deep feeling just to be around stuff that has history.”
Brain said that the larger community helped make the bench become a reality, with funding coming from USU, the Moab Arts Council, and WabiSabi’s “Make a Difference” grant.