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Aesop’s Tables auction to benefit 25 area nonprofits

The event marks the end of West Palm Beach’s Summer in Paradise celebration.

Eclectic picnic tables veiled in art created by local painters could be yours next week.

All it will take is a generous donation spurred by the desire to help others.

If you’ve strolled down Clematis Street in West Palm Beach this summer, you may have noticed these beautiful benches referred to as Aesop’s Tables. Each represents a tale from Aesop’s Fables, and they were painted by talented men and women who strive to tell stories through art. The tables are on display downtown as part of the city’s Summer in Paradise program — a series of creative events that aim to bring the community together in celebration of the season.

The art depicts fables including “The Jay and the Peacock,” “Tortoise and the Hare” and “The Lion and the Mouse.”

They have been admired by many the past few months and, on Aug. 31, these benches will be auctioned to the highest bidder during Clematis by Night at the Summer in Paradise Grand Finale. The money raised will go toward local nonprofit groups connected to each table.

Though these picnic tables are pretty to look at, they’re also a symbol of kindness because of what the art represents – simple stories about how to be good people. Being kind to others and accepting differences is something that the city’s Community Events Manager Mary Pinak feels residents need now more than ever.

“My office was getting weekly calls to hold protests … many more than usual,” Pinak said. “When we were trying to decide what to do, I was thinking maybe we need to go back to our community and find some common ground.”

The city chose 19 local artists to paint 25 picnic tables. The tables were assigned to local nonprofits that were committed to helping promote Summer in Paradise the entire summer. In turn, the groups would receive the money raised through the live auction.

The artists spent about four days painting the benches, side by side. Pinak said she quickly saw bonds begin to form.

“Nonprofits met artists and relationships were made. It was amazing,” she said. “Some artists are even talking about projects outside of this event.”

Steve Brouse is one of them. He’s a visual artist who lives in Northwood Village, a trendy arts community. Brouse painted two tables — one for the Quantum House and the other for United Way of Palm Beach County. By networking with these groups, he is now interested in working more with them.

Aesop’s Tables also gave Brouse a chance to work with and meet other local artists, which he appreciated.

“I’ve been painting over 20 years. It gave me an opportunity to reconnect with others. It brought a lot of artists together,” said Brouse, who is part of the West Palm Beach Lot 23 Artist in Residence program. “It was special.”

And city officials in other states believe Pinak’s Aesop’s Tables project is pretty special, too.

So special, in fact, that some officials want to replicate the idea in their own towns. Pinak has connected with city officials in two Ohio towns hoping to bring their communities together as well.

“I’m really pleased,” she said. “It would be fabulous to see many different communities give their take on it.”

The tables will be auctioned at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 during Clematis by Night. Bidding will start at $250.

And, in case you’re wondering, there haven’t been any protests this summer, Pinak said.

Perhaps Aesop’s Tables had something to do with that.

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