Feature Articles

July Issue 2000

Cultural Council's Palmetto Tree Project is Taking Root Throughout Columbia, SC










(frontal view) (back view) (close up)
Carolina Clock or The Apotheosis of Ol' Strom
Mariah Kirby Smith

The Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties is sponsoring the Columbia-area's largest-ever public art installation, the Palmetto Tree Project, where SC artists have turned specially cut steel palmetto trees into works of art. The trees (total of 89, 2 at international locations) will be on display through Oct., 2000.

The Palmetto Tree Project is a partnership among Chernoff/Silver & Associates, the Cultural Council, the City of Columbia, Lexington County, Richland County and members of the local business community.

Tree by Andrea Freeman at Finlay Park

Residents and tourists may be taken aback by the sight of a palmetto tree floating gracefully in a man-made lake (Finlay Park) or a grove of the trees flourishing amid a concrete sidewalk. But they are also likely to be dazzled, says Dot Ryall, executive director of the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties.

Digital Corruption by Clint Coleman

The 87 "steel palmettos" went on display at the end of June and are at locations through- out Lexington and Richland counties. In addition, a tree will be sent to Columbia's sister city, Kaiserslautern, Germany, for display. Another tree will go to Queensland, Australia, South Carolina's sister state, for display.

A jury team of seven museum professionals selected the winning designs from 160 entries. Most of the participating artists are from the greater Columbia area.

"We are receiving so much wonderful feedback from the community on how beautiful these trees are and how naturally they seem to fit into their 'treescapes'," says Ryall. "The whole Columbia community has embraced this project, and the artists are receiving much-deserved praise for their talent and imagination."

The Bench by Doni Jordan & Janette Grassi

The genesis of the Palmetto Tree Project came from advertising executive Marvin Chernoff, chairman of Chernoff/Silver, an award-winning communications company based in Columbia. Chernoff had seen the public cow sculptures during a visit to Chicago and thought South Carolina's state tree would lend itself to even more artistic expression. (Cows from Chicago's Cows on Parade public art project have been visiting Beaufort, SC, as Cows on Vacation.)

Chernoff said the trees point to the wealth of artistic talent found within South Carolina's borders and to the importance the local business community assigns to public art.

"One of my favorite moments during this project was at a reception a few months ago, when artists and corporate sponsors associated with this project had a chance to meet. To see the pride, respect and enthusiasm exchanged between these two groups was simply marvelous."

An Evolutionary Symbol by Mike Williams

Chernoff/Silver provided the steel cutouts to the artists, as a gift to the community for the firm's 25th anniversary. Samuel Tenebaum donated the metal; the City of Columbia and Richland and Lexington counties have installed the finished nine-foot trees - each one weighing 525 pounds - within their specific locations. Corporations and individuals have "sponsored" each tree for $1000, a sum each artist/team received for their talent and effort.

After the tree display ends, an auction will be held, with artists receiving 10 percent of the auctioned price of their tree and the remaining proceeds benefitting the Cultural Council's Sculpture in Public Places Fund.

The State: Then and Now by Meg McLean

The participating artists or teams in the Palmetto Tree Project (list provided by Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties) are:

Op Art Tree by Jean Borque

Ron Chapiesky and Bill Waithe; Philip Morris; Mary Ann Haven; Lisa Boykin Adams; Blue Sky; Herb Parker; Will Barnes; Napoleon Jones-Henderson and Gina Moore; Jonathan Green; Melissa Ligon and K. Dawn Branham; Bob Doster; Delor Daphne Wilson; Heidi Ruehl; Clark Ellefson; Carl Copeland; Merle Davis; Greg Leonard; Tim Floyd; Lia Newman; Anna and Katherine Hegquist; Dorothy Doniphan; Larry LeFebvre; Stephen Chesley; Jung Mei Dodd; Eric Lake; Syneractive Graphic Designers; Greg Leonard; Jonathan Hils; Betty Lane Kornegay; Angel Allen; David Moore; Lila Bendowska; Mark Kovacs; Mike Bayly; The Masters Academy - Bonifa Hamilton; Porter O'Brien Dodd; Charles Dillingham; Mana Hewitt; Lisa Jasinski; Chris Robinson; John Howard; Toni Elkins; Jann Rattray; Doni Jordan and Janette Grassi; Mike Williams; Heidi Darr-Hope; Mariah Kirby-Smith; Richard John Marriot; Andrea Freeman; Martin Buckley; Sydney Kornegay; Meg McLean; Philip Mullen; Sandra Hilton; Clint Coleman, Jean Bourque; Dexter Johnson; Mac Boggs; Susan Brush; Nancy Clark; Wade Harris; Jamie Blackburn; Marcelo Novo; Paul Kahr; Eve Furtick Martin; Mike Hawkins; Brennen School; Kathe Stanley; Sherry Larson; John Wright; B.R. Cooper; Jane Hannon (Kershaw 3rd Grade Students); Colin Dodd; Juan Torres - Irmo High School; Peyton Rowe; Brian Knuuti; John Acorn; Steve Hewitt; Dee McFarland; Allendale Public School Students; an unnamed German artist; Bibi Barba (Australian artist); Patrick Parise; Leo Twiggs; Barbie Mathis; Michael Bise; and Jack Gerstner.

On July 9, the State newspaper, in Columbia, will run a map showing the locations of the Palmetto Trees. A web site showing all the trees and providing additional information about the artists and this project is being designed. There is also talk of several related projects in conjunction with The Palmetto Tree Project such as a possible book, calendar and even a documentary film.

For further information call Tracy Jones, Palmetto Tree Coordinator for the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties at 803/799-3115.

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