Please Stand (and put your face through a hole)Downtown seats to be auctioned, next sidewalk attraction TBD
Belfast — Sit while you can. And imagine yourself as Miss Belfast or "the smallest man in the world."
The artist-designed "Please Be Seated" benches placed around downtown for the last six years are going away at the end of October, and with the exception of two recently donated to the city, they aren't coming back.
Taking their place will be placards depicting the bodies of notable characters from Belfast's history and a cutout for your face.
"Kind of put your face in Belfast history," said Breanna Pinkham Bebb, director of downtown business group Our Town Belfast, which has overseen Please Be Seated and hopes to do the historical cutouts.
Pinkham Bebb said the new project is still taking shape but will probably start with four characters, including Miss Belfast Eileen Fernald and Don Robbins, "a small person of local fame."
Other cutouts might feature parties at the coin flip used to decide whether the city should be named Belfast or Londonderry, along with more recent luminaries like Bern Porter, Belfast's first poet laureate.
Each cutout board will have historical information along with a complete photo of the historical personality, Pinkham Bebb said, "so you can see what the person really looked like."
Locations will be chosen for relevance, Pinkham Bebb said. Robbins' cutout might be outside the Belfast Co-op because he was a bouncer at the former Windsor Hotel, which stood on the site.
The project already has $1,500 in funding from a National Association of Realtors grant, "because projects like this, Realtors love," Pinkham Bebb said. "They make your place unique and special, a place people want to live."
Please Be Seated benches are being offered for sale through Our Town Belfast's website and Facebook page to raise more money for downtown beautification projects.
Please Be Seated grew out of EcoMotion, an earlier downtown interactive art project started by Waterfall Arts that featured kinetic bicycle-themed sculptures made by local artists. Museum in the Streets, an earlier downtown attraction that's still around, highlighted the city's fast-moving history with photos and blurbs about bygone downtown landmarks.
In the early 2000s, Belfast Bearfest put an ursine spin on the popular concept of having artists customize stock fiberglass animals and placing them in business districts. There were other downtown installations, including some non-historical cutouts.
The latest idea got a lukewarm response from the City Council, particularly from Councilor Eric Sanders, who said the cutouts seemed like a tourist attraction more fitting of Bar Harbor or Coney Island than Belfast.
Pinkham Bebb said later that Our Town Belfast's design committee was aware of that potential and picked the historical theme with locals in mind. "But it's still something that's fun for people who are visiting," she said.