Above: Second grade students at Janet Austin’s tree sculpture learning about the damage to trees caused by emerald ash borer beetles.
Below: Sculptor Janet Austin on the right.
Above: Sculptor Paul Russell helping children to make elements for his tree sculpture.
Above: German sculptor Susanne Ruoff with local residents at the inauguration of her tree sculpture in Shedd Park.
About The Chicago Tree Project
The Chicago Tree Project was started in 2014 when the Chicago Park District was faced with the question of what to do with thousands of trees that had been infected with the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect encouraged by climate change that has been destroying millions of trees in North America for the last ten years. The Park District approached Chicago Sculpture International (CSI), and together they created a program that would give some of these sick and dying trees a second life as a work of vibrant public art.
Artists have addressed the trees in a variety of methods, with traditional carving and various media that have been integrated into the trees. The resulting tree sculptures have been wide ranging in subject matter as well, addressing scientific, spiritual and environmental themes. These sculptures offer unique and often unexpected encounters for visitors to Chicago parks. As long as they remain secure, the transformed trees remain standing.
About the organizations involved: The Chicago Park District strives to integrate art and nature in many ways to enhance the experience of public spaces; Chicago Sculpture International is a group of artists devoted to the understanding that sculpture is a unique and vital contribution to society. This collaborative project between the Park District and CSI builds on the city’s reputation for great public art. It expands the reach of public art in Chicago by bringing sculpture to geographically diverse neighborhoods throughoutthe city. Also, what started out as a local endeavor has now become national and international, with other U.S. cities using the Chicago Tree Project as the model for their own tree sculpture projects, and artists from all over the country and the world submitting proposals and coming to Chicago to create unique sculptures.