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Think of Herd About Buffalo, only this time you can sit on the finished product.

Inspired by the successful buffalo-decorating event and auction, Living Benches plans to raise money for public art projects and other causes by painting and decorating park-type benches to go on display in the spring and then be auctioned off.

The first bench, painted by artist and project founder Lisa Karwas, is scheduled to be officially unveiled Sunday at the Olmsted Fallfest at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Karwas modeled her bench after the Botanical Gardens dome.

Karwas, who teaches art at Maryvale High School, was involved in Herd About Buffalo and wanted to keep going.

"I ran into (Assemblyman) Brian Higgins and mentioned that I wanted to do more public art projects," she said. "He was excited about it, and we talked about doing something for Fallfest, and then I noticed there weren't any benches at the Botanical Gardens and got the idea of doing benches."

She said it wasn't until later that she learned that Cleveland already has a similar and successful bench project.

The idea is for businesses and individuals to sponsor a bench for a $1,500 fee. Artists will be lined up to do their creative best, and the finished works will go on display throughout the city in April.

Then in October 2002, they will be displayed at the Walden Galleria and auctioned off. Proceeds will be used to fund other public art and green space projects, with a portion also going to the Kevin Guest House for families of patients at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

Higgins, D-Buffalo, is lending staff support to the project, which is being sponsored by the Olmsted Parks of South Buffalo Association.

"This is a great way to support the communities and charities and get some seed money for similar projects," said Maureen Krause, chairwoman of the association.


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