An artist’s conception of a bench celebrating the late Bud Abbott and volunteerism past, present and future, to be placed outside the Studio Stage Door in downtown Cranbrook. Photo courtesy Cranbrook Community Theatre.

An artist’s conception of a bench celebrating the late Bud Abbott and volunteerism past, present and future, to be placed outside the Studio Stage Door in downtown Cranbrook. Photo courtesy Cranbrook Community Theatre.

Original artwork downtown a tribute to Bud Abbott, volunteerism

Several community groups have come together to create a bench celebrating volunteerism and a legendary volunteer

Some new, useful artwork will soon grace Cranbrook’s downtown.

Cranbrook Community Theatre, and several other community groups, have come together to have an original piece of art created — a bench — that as well as providing a rest spot for pedestrians will serve as a tribute to local volunteerism.

The tribute is inspired by the late Bud Abbott, who passed away at age 97 in 2019. He’s been gone for three years, but his influence and impact on the community live on, especially in his acts of volunteerism, says Peter Schalk, President of CCT.

“He was a volunteer with so many organizations, and he had roots in many organizations,” Schalk said. “He’s gone but not forgotten — he was involved in every aspect of Cranbrook.”

The bench, which will be created by a local artist, will feature a one-dimensional sculpture of Abbott playing the trombone. The metaphor is appropriate. In later life, Bud took up the trombone and learned to play it by busking at the Farmer’s Market. Proceeds he earned there were donated to local charities.

Also appropriate is the placement of the bench in front of the Studio Stage Door, home to Cranbrook Community Theatre, and perhaps what Bud is most well known for in the community.

“The story is legendary,” Schalk said. “How Bud, Cornell Sawchuk and Phil Foster marched into the City meeting and saying ‘here’s this building that you want to destroy — let’s not do that, let’s buy it and turn it over to the CCT.’ What a radical idea this is.’”

The old Masonic Lodge thus became the Studio Stage Door and permanent home of CCT, who have been stewards of the building for the past almost 50 years. CCT has since created the template on how to run a heritage building as a society, with support from but independent from the City.

Schalk stressed that the bench will be more than a tribute to Bud Abbott. It will be a tribute to volunteerism in Cranbrook, past present and future. After all, Bud Abbott, so prominent in the community, but also unassuming, and engaged with everyone he met, is someone we should all strive to be like.

Bud Abbott, busking at the Cranbrook Farmers Market, July, 2013. (Barry Coulter photo)

Pictured: Bud Abbott, busking at the Cranbrook Farmers Market, July, 2013. (Barry Coulter photo)

“To emulate what he did — there are so many things we remember, it’s like he was a legend at times, yet a real person,” Schalk said. “His involvement in the community. Bud was always there.”

The new bench will be part of an overall enhancement of the grounds surrounding the Studio Stage Door.

“We have fairly extensive outside renovation happening this year. We’ll be putting in sprinkler systems and new sod, and new concrete,” Schalk said. “That was place that was deemed a pretty good place to put the bench.”

The bench project is a joint venture between several different community organizations: CCT, KCT, Chamber of Commerce, the City of Cranbrook, the RDEK Area C, the Rotary Club, the Cranbrook District Arts Council. Schalk said that this is an ongoing fundraising initiative. “We hope to have local partners who would support this worthwhile project.”