Penny Browning’s “Mackinac Bridge at Night” won the competition’s People’s Choice Award. Kaitlin Bisel, formerly of Otsego, now of Caledonia, shows “The Nature of Art” bin. Stephanie Hageman of Plainwell created the bench titled “Pleasant Peacock.”

Artists display town pride with Otsego's 'Bins & Benches'

Otsego Main Street recently wrapped up a second Bins and Benches art competition, showing some of Otsego’s hidden talents.

The competition was created by the Otsego Main Street design committee as a way to refinish all of the benches and trash bins in downtown, while adding color and art to enhance the ambience and unique feel of the downtown district.
“We’ve been very pleased with the caliber of talent that has surfaced through this project,” said Scot Reitenour, design committee chairman. “Judging was very difficult, as there were so many outstanding pieces.”
In the end, two talents came out on top: Stephanie Hageman of Plainwell who created the bench titled “Pleasant Peacock” and Kaitlin Bisel, formerly of Otsego, now of Caledonia, completing “The Nature of Art” bin.  Each of these women were awarded a $50 cash prize.  
Second-place awards went to Penny Browning’s bench “Mackinac Bridge at Night,” and Betty LaCoss’s bin “Nature’s Walk.”
“The completed bins and benches have created conversations in town and seem to be drawing attention with passersby,” said Molly Wieber, Otsego Main Street manager.  “Every event and activity that we do is ultimately designed to engage the community and create a greater sense of pride and ownership in our downtown.
“Taking the vote to the public through our Peoples’ Choice award was a successful example of that philosophy.” 
On the day of judging, all of the pieces were featured on the Otsego Main Street Facebook page and fans were encouraged to cast a vote for their favorite. After 212 votes were tallied, the “people’s choice” was Penny Browning with her bench, “Mackinac Bridge at Night.” 
“I just couldn’t believe they picked me—I couldn’t stop crying!” said Browning.
The completion of this competition brings the artistic total of bins and benches in the downtown to 16. But there are still a number of unfinished bins and benches in town, which means there will be a third competition.  It will kick off this summer with judging on Sept. 20 at the Otsego Creative Arts Festival.  
“The $50 entry fee doesn’t seem to be deterring people from entering the competition, and we’ve had great support via sponsorships that have been made available by local residents and businesses to help cover the cost for some,”  Wieber said.  
Proceeds from this event are put back into the community in the form of other projects, such as the Art Garden and community events.


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