PORTLAND – The city’s Public Art Committee has selected an artist-designed bench proposal for the city’s new Bayside Trail.

All nine members voted Wednesday night to recommend that the City Council authorize the commissioning of the plan from SkyeDesign.

If approved, the Washington, D.C.-based studio will design three benches for $42,500.

Two curved benches made of wood and steel would face each other in the Elm Street Plaza near Trader Joe’s. The third bench would undulate like a wave, with backing at some parts of the bench and not at others. It would be off Franklin Street, near the Planet Dog store.

“I think it’s a very beautiful and usable form in that space,” said Alice Spencer, who co-chairs the Public Art Committee.

“I really like the different ways you can relate to it with your body,” said committee member Pandora LaCasse. “You could lie down on it and look up at the sky. It really marries the idea of art and function, with simplicity and beauty.”

The committee’s recommendation will be brought to the City Council for approval in late October or early November.

Considering the other two finalists in the selection process, committee members said they could not endorse a piece designed by Aaron Stephan, a Portland artist.

Stephan’s bench, which got public support at a hearing earlier this month, would cost $13,000 to $14,000 and be placed in a plaza at the east end of Marginal Way.

Stephan, who lives in the Bayside neighborhood, proposed a bench built from concrete packing crates and aluminum cinderblocks — a reference to Bayside’s industrial heritage.

“Of all the pieces, it’s the most intelligent and complex. All of Aaron’s work is astonishing, but it doesn’t tell you what it’s talking about. It not easily legible,” Spencer said.

The committee agreed to reconsider a bench design submitted by a New Hampshire artist, Gary Haven Smith, at a later date.

Members said Smith’s proposal was not complete but merits further consideration if state funding becomes available.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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