History, community, sustainability: These are the three words Nicholas Benson carved into stone – in Base64 computer code – for a new art installation at Farm Fresh RI’s headquarters in the Valley neighborhood. The public was invited to watch over a weekend in mid-May as Benson worked on a slab of marble. Owner of the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Benson is considered one of the best stone carvers in North America, and worked on both the World War II and Martin Luther King, Jr. memorials in Washington. This is his first public work.
Benson decided to carve the words in code to show the connections of the human spirit across time. The artwork combines the ancient technique of stone carving with the modern invention of code used to program computers. While discussing working on a smaller scale, Benson explains, “the only thing that’s a little different here is that on really large civic memorials I’ve designed specific typefaces so I’m able to type and design the bodies of text with a machine.”
When the Rhode Island State House was being built in the 1890s, the area that is now Farm Fresh RI was a marble-cutting facility. According to Farm Fresh RI Real Estate & Community Developer Lucie Searle, it was on this site that all of the marble used to build the State House was cut; contractors unearthed some during construction of the Farm Fresh building, and Benson picked out a piece with which to work. “We’ve repurposed [the marble] in our landscape. We’ve made benches that can be sponsored and [Benson] chose a piece to work on,” Searle adds.
In the fall, Farm Fresh RI will hold a public sale of the salvaged pieces for those who would like to purchase their own piece of Rhode Island history. Learn more here.