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New Arts Services Coordinator at Arts and Humanities

Todd PittengerMarch 13, 2021

A new staffer is on board at Salina Arts and Humanities.

According to the organization, Joan Benefiel has been selected as the new new Arts Services Coordinator.

A Wichita native, Benefiel most recently lived and worked in New York City and in Brooklyn, NY. In the last 17 years, Benefiel’s work as a sculptor has included commissions for the Vietnam Veteran’s War Monument in Eisenhower State Park in Long Island, NY, and to create a St. Ignatius Memorial for Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT.

Her pieces have been included in shows ranging from “Beyond Rodin: Contemporary Figurative Sculpture Exhibition” for the Rye Arts Center, to “The Showcase Collection of Small Works” at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.

“I never wanted to be an artist who didn’t understand each step,” says Benefiel. “I wanted to do it myself.” Initially self-taught, her training in dimensional design and production began with Kansas City sculptor Tom Corbin during her years at KU, then continued in various roles Benefiel held for more than a decade at Excalibur Bronze Fine Art Foundry in New York City.

In 2008, she and husband Jeremy Leichman started their own firm, Figuration Studio, where they produced their own works and provided design and fabrication services for other artists.

Recently, Benefiel’s works have appeared in exhibitions in Palm Desert, CA, Springfield, MO, Colorado Springs, CO, Knoxville, TN, Naples, FL, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and other locations.  Her work is currently featured in the El Paseo Public Art Sculpture Exhibition in Palm Desert, CA, and in SculptureTour Salina-style exhibits in Gladstone and Springfield, MO, and on the campus of Appalachian State University. Her work has been showcased in two documentaries and in media including Fox News, The New York Times, and Christian Century.

Benefiel’s lifelong commitment to sculpture illustrates how deeply the medium resonates with her. “It’s literal, but not limiting,” she says. “I can communicate something important to me while putting something out there that others can bring parts of themselves to. To have them experience a piece in the same physical space in which I create it, is special.”

Benefiel holds a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from the University of Kansas and a MFA in figurative sculpture from the New York Academy of Art. She also has studied at the Art Students League of New York, Parsons School of Design, the School of Visual Arts, and at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.

Her unique, hand-tinted, seemingly lit-from-within resin sculpture series entitled “Cast In Light” has been featured in numerous temporary public-art installations around the U.S., including spanning five blocks of Broadway below Times Square in NYC’s Fashion District, at L.A. Live at Nokia Plaza in Los Angeles, and in Rye Town Park in Rye, NY. Within her wide range of sculptural work, Benefiel created a two-part, 80-panel bronze bas-relief work depicting a historic railroad, as a focal element of the lobby of the famous Helmsley Building on Park Avenue, where one of the railway stations was once located.

For Salina Arts & Humanities, Benefiel will oversee the Smoky Hill River Festival’s juried art show, demo artists, outdoor Art Installations and the Art Patron Program. She also will serve as the primary liaison to the Community Art & Design Program and its advisory committee, and will serve as a regional public art and visual arts resource.

Copyright © Meridian Media, 2021. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.

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