116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION - A group of Linn-Mar students involved with Iowa BIG are backing a project to turn tree debris into art to raise money to plant new trees.
Six students - Leah Ahlers, Emma Gerlach, Lexi King, Ella Schultz, Lindsay Radack and Connor French - have organized the tree art auction as their Iowa BIG project.
Iowa Big is a learner-based education program in the Cedar Rapids area that focuses on providing local students with real-world projects.
King said the group wanted to give the community something back after the devastating derecho tore through Iowa on Aug. 10, destroying more than 50 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids and Marion.
'We thought we could make something really cool out of all the damage,” King said. 'So we've gathered some chain saw artists and are bringing the community together to raise money for Trees Forever.”
Sixty percent of the auction profits will go to Trees Forever, a Marion-based nonprofit that will use the money to plant new trees.
The public can watch the chain saw artists at work Nov. 14 to 20 at City Square Park in Uptown Marion.
The auction will take place on 32auction.com from Nov. 23 to 29.
Ahlers said Marion Mayor Nick AbouAssaly connected the students with city Public Service Director Ryan Miller, who is helping gather 50 to 60 logs from ash trees for the sculptures.
'I came up with the project and presented it to the Iowa BIG teachers,” Ahlers said. 'I thought it was really cool and big, and I knew I couldn't do it myself. I got on the phone with Mayor Nick, and he told me we have his full support.”
The students connected with Carve R Way owner Clint Henik, who has been carving with chain saw for six years and is self-taught. The students saw Henik's sculptures on local news stations after the derecho.
'I'm pretty excited about this,” Henik said. 'I wanted to do something myself, but they got hold of me so I'm excited to create a bunch of pieces and help bring some light.”
Henik said he will have four to five other carvers with him making pieces in the park later. He expects they can finish four to five pieces a day during the event.
'We will definitely have some pieces that will represent Iowa like corncobs and pigs,” he said. 'It depends on the carver, but sometimes people give us ideas and that's kind of fun.”
He said he'll be posting videos and livestreaming the carving on Facebook, if people prefer to watch from home.
King reiterated the importance of keeping the event safe during the current pandemic.
'We do want to make sure there aren't too many people there,” she said. 'We are encouraging people to walk or drive by. We have our artists roped off in the park, but it definitely won't be like nobody else is allowed to come.”
Gerlach said this is her first project with Iowa BIG, and she's learned a lot about what students are able to do together.
'It's shown me that a group of kids can come together and make things happen,” she said.
'We hope people like the auction, and we get these sold,” Ahlers added. 'Let's raise money for replanting trees in our community.”
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