The Bethesda Metro station is not near any museum I’ve ever visited, but it is near a lot of other things to do: free festivals throughout the year, art galleries, movie theaters, restaurants that are good for dates and family birthday dinners, as well as stores and doctors’ offices. Without setting foot in any building, you can see art all over Bethesda just walking down the street. Among all the uniquely shaped works are the Poetry Benches.
The Poetry Benches are scattered throughout downtown Bethesda, and they are bits of color and whimsy on which people can sit. Each one is carved into a curvy shape, painted with images, and emblazoned with a snippet of verse. The benches are fun and cute, and they add something cheerful to bus stops and sidewalks.
Bethesda is not the only place on its Metro line, or in its county, that has a series of public art pieces that are also places to sit. Silver Spring is glittered with the mosaic benches known as Benches on the Block, a project of Arts on the Block (a local arts organization for youth). The pastel tiles that the sitter leans his or her back against suggest abstract nature scenes.
In Takoma Park (and spilling over to also include Takoma DC), the annual series of reCYCLE (Please Sit on the Art) began in 2013. These pieces are all one-of-a-kind, and some are rather more comfortable to use as actual seats than others. (One work, despite the title of the exhibit as a whole, had a sign advising viewers not to sit on it.) Some have been animal shaped: butterfly, spider, octopus. Others have been fashioned to evoke games, traffic signs, seatbelts, and fairy tales.
The one downside to trying to go out and photograph all these pieces is that there might be someone sitting on them (and I just want a picture of the bench itself, not a photo of a potentially annoyed stranger just minding their own business). But the presence of people on the seats indicates that the pieces are serving their purpose as functional pieces of art that people notice and interact with.
Bethesda is on the Red Line.