Art student updates bench, Little Free Library


Commentary by Donna Monday

A little paint, a little help and a talented artist went a long way toward beautifying the Village. A great example is the bench and Little Free Library in front of the SullivanMunce Cultural Center on Hawthorne Street. Both the bench and the Free Little Library were donated to the center years ago by Psi Iota Xi (Psi Otes) sorority in Zionsville.

Psi Ote Melissa Keeney, walking by the bench and library more than a year ago, thought they looked worn. At the time, she had no idea about the history of the items and, of course, did not know the Psi Otes had donated them. Upon learning that, she felt maybe the Psi Otes should maintain them. She took her case to the sorority, and voila, a beautiful repaired and repainted bench and library, complete with new theme, were completed.

Except it wasn’t that easy. An artist had to be found, which happened when Psi Ote Linda Kern reached out to Zionsville Community High School and was connected with senior Carissa Szalkowski, who volunteered to do the work and set about researching Indiana.

Next came approvals from the sorority and the SullivanMunce board, and more than a little help from Psi Ote husband Dave DeMars, who sanded the bench and library, and sorority sisters Rhonda Fox and Melissa Keeney, who primed them. Finally, Szalkowski could go to work.

Her work of art is not only fresh and historic in nature, but simply fun to look at. Black and white checks cover the seat and arms of the bench, representing the Indianapolis 500. The pink fluffs are peonies, the state flower. Red cardinals, the state bird, fly in blue skies over a field of green on the little library.

Szalkowski loved doing it. A 2023 ZCHS graduate, she is on her way to Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla.

“I want to try new things and see what sticks,” she said.

What’s sticking in the meantime is a photo of her Hawthorne Street project in her portfolio.