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Water-themed art installation flows through utilities department



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Ben Pines discusses his paintings with the public in the City of Bloomington Utilities service center Oct. 19. He talked about how important it is to display scientific information within his art. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

In April 2018, a request was sent to the artists of Bloomington to create an artwork that showcases Bloomington’s geology or water history. 

The winning artist was chosen by the City of Bloomington Utilities members of the Utilities Service Board and the Bloomington Arts Committee.

The group recently decided that Ben Pines’ work was the best. He said his oil paintings focus on the human aspect of Bloomington’s water and maintenance systems. 

“The three paintings at the front customer service stations, each featuring a monumental presentation of a Utilities Department employee working in the lab, were made specifically for this exhibition,” Pines said in an email.

The installation is meant to affirm the value of public instituions and celebrate informed water management and its importance to life in Bloomington, he said. 

Pines’ work revolves around landscapes and portraits, and his work has been exhibited in Indiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania. Pines is an IU alumnus and graduated with a master’s degree. He currently teaches 2-D design at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center and gives private painting and drawing lessons. 

Pines said that in a few of his paintings, he created huge windows with sky and landscape details showing through them, even though the facility is relatively closed off. He said he did this to portray the feeling of openness and freedom that he experiences living in Bloomington. 

“In this project, the City’s Utilities department requested artwork that would speak to its mission of providing clean water to the citizens of Bloomington,” Sally Gaskill, Bloomington Arts Commission chairwoman, said in an email. “Ben Pines’ beautiful paintings send the message of the impact of clean water on our lives, and benefit the artist by providing a place for his work to be seen by the public.”

Gaskill also said that the Bloomington Arts Commission believes in the power of public art and “marrying” art to a certain location. 

On Oct. 29, the CBU began showcasing Pines’ work as an installation in the lobby of the City of Bloomington Utilities Service Center. The service center is located at 600 E. Miller Drive, and the paintings will be on display there for a year. 

“Bloomington has always had to be creative to sustain a plentiful and safe water supply,” CBU Director Vic Kelson said in a press release. “With this installation, we have tapped into our local creative resources to raise awareness of our unique relationship with water.”

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