MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Water is a common bond for cities and communities along the St. Croix River.

But that’s not the only thing that brings them together. Art also plays a role for people on both sides of the border.

No matter what time of year, people flock to the St. Croix. Plenty of discoveries await along the valley, though not all of them were created by Mother Nature.

A pair of hands offers a place to sit in Stillwater. Inspired by a local philanthropist, artist Allen Christian is the man behind this creation.

“Take a breath. Sit down and take a deep breath. Ponder where we are at this place and time. Also, think about the creativity that went into it,” said Allen.

Creativity is the key. Allen’s bench is one of 10 that can be found in cities on both sides of the St. Croix; from Prescott to Bayport, Hudson to Houlton.

One side likes the Packers, the other side likes the Vikings.

“The river unites us. It’s a shared asset. Something we all feel connected to,” said Anastasia Shartin.

Shartin is the brain power behind the benches. A few years ago, she and others connected artists with cities, to design and build their own. Art benches that can withstand rain, snow, or on this particular day, some sort of sleeting mix.

No two benches are the same. That’s because in each city, kids had a hand in what was built.

“The kids were involved from the beginning when it was just an idea,” said Anastasia.

It shows in the fish bench and the butterfly bench- and in Houlton, students designed it with history in mind.

“We worked on the logging down there- the trees and the river,” said Anika Bradshaw.

Bradshaw and Kate Likness learned a lot about their state through this project. Logging, farming, even a woolly mammoth, depict just how far we’ve come.

“I thought it was a really cool opportunity to put all that together into one art bench,” said Likness.

“I feel really proud to come back and see it and all the stuff we did,” said Bradshaw.

They’re hoping other fans of the St. Croix appreciate it too. Maybe they’ll even be inspired to sit and stay awhile.

“The collection of community engagement and support around each of these projects is really exciting and impressive,” said Anastasia.

For more information about the benches, click here.

John Lauritsen