Turning trees into works of art

A 1,500-pound statue of Robin Hood now stands at the eastern entrance to Charlottetown, just off St. Peters Road.

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 24, 2010
Aboriginal artist Levi Cannon has been hired by the City of Charlottetown to turn some diseased trees that have been cut down into public art. His first effort is a statue of Robin Hood.
Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

Dutch elm disease is devastating trees in Charlottetown but one man is making sure at least some good comes from it.

The City of Charlottetown has hired aboriginal artist Levi Cannon to turn some of those diseased trees into works of art and his first attempt has turned quite a few heads in the neighbourhood of Sherwood.

A 1,500-pound statue of Robin Hood now stands at the eastern entrance to Charlottetown, just off St. Peters Road.

"This is a first for me. It's the first time I've done a full anatomy,'' Cannon said in an interview beside the statue. "I'm more of a native carver, ceremonial things than a full-sized (statue) like this.''

Cannon said he only started doing wood carvings 12 years ago.

It all started back in March. Mayor Clifford Lee took a look at some of Cannon's work with the 2009 Canada Summer Games at UPEI and thought the aboriginal artist's gift could be put to more good use.

"It's a concept that's been talked about for a couple of seasons with the city,'' Lee said. "We're cutting down trees. Unfortunately, the majority of trees that are coming down are coming down because they have the Dutch elm disease.''

Lee said, as is the case in other jurisdictions, diseased trees are being preserved and turned into public art.

"The reason we did Robin Hood is because (in) the neighbourhood of Sherwood, Robin Hood is very much associated with the history (of the community).''

In fact, the character is still a part of the Sherwood signage.

 

"The reason we did Robin Hood is because (in) the neighbourhood of Sherwood, Robin Hood is very much associated with the history (of the community).'' Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee

Cannon said he's happy to save a few of the trees that would otherwise be burned.

"There's a lot of beautiful wood here that's just going to be burned,” the artist said. “Once we carve it up and seal it there's no chance of disease at all. It's sealed and gone.”

The statue was erected on Friday, Aug. 13. Sadly, vandals have already struck. A wire acting as the bow in Robin Hood's bow and arrow, for example, is gone and it's not hard to notice people have been climbing on the statue.

"It will stand the winter OK. I imagine we'll probably have to replace the sword and the feathers and the arrows occasionally,'' Cannon said in reference to threats such as weather and vandals.

"I know there's talk of putting a video camera up just to stop any vandalism from happening. I'm hoping the inhabitants of the (Sherwood) village itself will take control of it and take ownership of it and make sure that it doesn't get hurt.''

Lee said more of Cannon's art is coming. He's been asked to produce a sign for the neighbourhood of West Royalty and the mayor said one other idea being talked about now include something for the Notre Dame convent.

"They tell me what kinds of ideas they'd like and I tell them if I can do it,'' Cannon said.

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca