Paul Russell

The Watching Tree

Pottawattomie Park


The Watching Tree is a symbol of diversity. What better place to celebrate this concept than Pottawattomie Park in the Chicago neighborhood of Rogers Park? I came up with the design and made the steel eyes. The after-school kids at Pottawattomie Park, as well as my kids and a few adults, painted the eyes. I cut the eyes from 16-gauge sheet metal with a hand-held plasma torch. The eyes were shaped on a tree stump, and smoothed with a planishing hammer. Each eye was fitted to the contour of the tree with light taps around the edges. Outlines and numbers of the eyes covered the tree before they were ready for installation. In the center of each outlined eye on the tree, I drilled a ⅛” hole. Stainless steel pins were tig-welded on the underside of the eyes and anchored in the holes with an all-weather epoxy. Of course, the eyes were colorfully painted before this last step. There are many ways to look at this piece. I believe the kids enjoyed painting the eyes and hope they are proud of themselves. It’s important not to overlook the creativity of children.