Parks and Rec looks into chainsaw art at Riverview Park

Storm damage nearly stripped three trees at Riverview Park of all their branches. But instead of simply tearing the trees out, the Marshalltown Parks and Recreation director saw an opportunity to do something fun.

Terry Gray, Parks and Rec director, thought it might be a good idea to hire a chainsaw artist to revamp the trees into something aesthetic. She presented the idea to the Marshalltown City Council Monday night.

“It’s in lieu of tearing them down,” she said. “It’s creating them into art or into folk art is probably the most apt description instead of removing those trees, it is a chance to do something with them that would be a lasting impression.”

Gray said the city will likely go through Gary Keenan, a tree sculptor out of Des Moines, and hopes to have the sculptures complete by the second annual Kids to Parks Day in May.

Keenan, who has no formal art training, said a sculpture typically takes him roughly two days to complete. He has done sculptures for the Iowa State Fair, among other things.

Keenan said his favorite things to sculpt are fantasy creatures – gargoyles, mermaids, dragons – but many customers want wildlife; bears and eagles are the most common. The most difficult carvings are those of humans.

“We recognize our own proportions more readily,” he said.

Gray said Parks and Rec has yet to decide on what it wants the sculptures to look like.

The addition of the tree art will spruce up the park, Gray said, adding another feature that makes it attractive to park goers. But, the project won’t happen overnight. And, like anything, isn’t free.

Turning the trunks into art will cost roughly $1,800, Gray said. Since Parks and Rec doesn’t have the money for the carving in its budget, it is looking for sponsors to help fund it, which may influence the design or theme.

Gray and Keenan said perhaps an agriculture theme touting a giant ear of corn and farm animals might be appropriate, but no concrete decisions have been made. Whatever the theme, Keenan said he always has fun doing the sculptures.

“I enjoy the planning and layout. That’s the unique challenge: making the subject fit the tree,” Keenan said. “I like working with my hands and working with tools, and [chainsaw art] fits very well with that.”