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Telling Alaska’s Story: Alaskan woodcarver busy at work on bench for Alaska Zoo

The trail around East Anchorage’s Cheney Lake features a number of pieces of Stuart Benson’s art work.
Published: May. 23, 2022 at 6:33 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The trail around East Anchorage’s Cheney Lake features a number of pieces of Stuart Benson’s art work.

Benson is a woodcarver whose backyard studio borders the trail and the lake. It’s not uncommon to have people stop to see what he’s up to.

“My art pleases me and I just love it that other people love it too,” Benson said. “People come by every day and say how much they like coming by here.”

Just two years ago, Benson carved a large bench from a beetle killed spruce tree that featured a snowy owl on one end. He placed the bench on the path around the lake where people love to walk and it’s been well used ever since.

Benson is a longtime carpenter who retired, and is now working full time on his art. Nearly everything he makes he puts in public places or gives away for free.

“When you’re doing art for money, I think the creativity lacks,” Benson said. “So my art’s always been free.

Benson enjoys working on his wooden art projects.

“It’s a gift,” Benson said. “I have a gift, I give gifts.”

Benson’s latest gift is to the Alaska Zoo. He’s working on a bench featuring Jake, the beloved brown bear who died at the zoo last summer at the age of 39. He’s carving it out of a 1,000-pound log that was hauled to Anchorage from Seward. So far Benson has put in close to 200 hours on the piece, but still has a way to go.

“This is the biggest piece I’ve ever done, and when it’s done, it’s going to be my greatest piece of art ever,” Benson said.

Benson is aiming to have the bench installed at the zoo by the Fourth of July. He wants to include information about Jake as well as the importance of celebrating nature.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to take care of the planet, for us and the creatures,” Benson said.

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