Beautiful benches result from NIAD art project


By Zach Chouteau

Richmond’s streetscapes have just reached a new ‘benchmark’ due to a creative project overseen by one of the city’s most vital cultural venues.

Working with a grant from the California Art Council and Zellerbach Family Fund, and under the guidance of artist Ellen Lake of Berkeley’s KALA Institute, the NIAD Art Center designed and installed artwork for 20 bus benches all around the City of Richmond on February 11.

“This project was a collaboration between artist Ellen Lake and six NIAD artists—Julio Del Rio, Maria Radilla, Shantae Robinson, Matt Wilson, Luis Estrada and Jonathan Velazquez,” said Deb Dyer, executive director for the vibrant 23rd Street venue. “Based on a similar project in Oakland, these benches place art—by Richmond artists—in the public view, adding beauty to the streetscape. We hope Richmond residents enjoy the art for the six-month period that the art will be displayed.”

For those unfamiliar with NIAD—standing for Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development—the center is dedicated to helping artists with disabilities function independently. Home to four galleries, a gallery store and frequent free events, the one-of-a-kind artistic enclave helps more than 60 artists create eclectic artwork every week ranging from paintings to ceramics and silk-screens.

NIAD has no entry fee and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 12 Noon to 4 p.m.  It hosts a complimentary opening reception for a new exhibit from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month and also displays special galleries on its website that are online-only.

Find out more by visiting their website at