Boston Common Elm Gets New Life in Art Auction for FOPG

October 16, 2015

By Dan Murphy

After a large Belgian elm located near the corner of Beacon and Charles streets on the Boston Common fell prey to Hurricane Irene in August of 2011, Friends of the Public Garden board member Margaret Pokorny had a novel idea for giving the tree another life.

Taking her inspiration the onetree project, which salvaged wood from an approximately 170-year-old oak felled in Cheshire, England, in 1998 and distributed the material to artists to craft a wide range of original pieces, Pokorny suggested that the elm could be recycled in a way that would benefit the city’s parks.

The Boston Parks Department agreed to temporarily store wood from the tree on the grounds of Franklin Park as the Friends hatched the idea for an online art auction, featuring items made from the recovered material, to benefit its ongoing efforts to care for the Public Garden, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and the Common.

Once it secured artists for the auction, the Friends were then faced with the challenge of transporting the wood to their respective studios, where the material had to finish drying before it could be reused.

Their efforts have paid off, though: Among the items crafted from the Elm that will be up for bidding are a bench, a bowl, two boxes with lids and various sculptures. Other auction highlights include a bronze casting of Mrs. Mallard by Nancy Schön, who created the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture on the Public Garden; a two-night stay at the Fairmont Copley Plaza; and an afternoon sail around Boston Harbor.

“We’re using the auction both as a fundraiser, as well as to raise awareness of the trees and what the Friends do to care for them,” Pokorny said. “We really want people to know what the Friends and the Parks Department are doing to keep these historic trees alive.”

The auction kicked off on Wednesday, Oct. 7  – the same night as the Friends’ annual members reception at the Four Seasons Hotel, which will feature several items for bid on display.

Pokorny hopes that the Friends effort to recycle trees from the parks will help spawn a “system where they could be turned into something other than woodchips.”

Liz Vizza, executive director of the Friends, said the auction sheds a different light on the trees.

“You can take a tree and transform it into a work of art,” Vizza said. “It’s all about seeing the parks in new way, and a new way to appreciate these majestic trees.”

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