In July, one of the large cottonwood trees that had stood proudly in front of the Dundee Library was struck by lightning during a summer storm. While it was not completely split, it was significantly weakened. Because the tree is so close to the building, we knew it had to come down. We were disappointed, but we do our best to turn negatives into positives here at FRVPLD, so we decided to explore the idea of transforming the tree into a sculpture that would add some character and prominence to our front yard.
The tree was planted around 1976, soon after the Dundee Library was built. It had grown several stories tall and was 10 feet around so it left us plenty to work with. It was cut down to six feet, and our search for a chainsaw artist began. Lucky for us, that led us to Chris and Brianne Hubbart of Hillsboro, IL, 250 miles downstate.
Chris and Brianne own Hubbart Wood where they create custom chainsaw carvings. A scroll through their website gallery and Facebook feed had us intrigued and after learning Chris’s “Wile E. Coyote In A Basket”, an entry piece for the 2018 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta's Chainsaw Carving Invitational in New Mexico won first place, we made the call.
A fox with books was a natural design concept for us. We had many phone calls with Chris to hone in on our vision. It did take a bit of a leap of faith…Chris is a true artist and explained that the sculpture would emerge as he worked. He told us that if we loved the photos we had seen of his work, we would love what he would create for us. He was right!
At this same time, our beloved Friends of the Library group disbanded after many dedicated years of fundraising and support. They wanted to leave us with a parting gift, and were conducting research to find something that all patrons would enjoy for a long time. So a portion of the funds they left us with was used to commission the chainsaw sculpture.
Chris and Brianne arrived on the morning of Monday, November 7. We could tell right off the bat we picked the right artists. They were raring to go. They were inspired by the beauty of Dundee and the Fox River, and fueled by a memorable visit and cup of coffee from Elder + Oat Bread and Coffee Collective in West Dundee.
The Hubbart’s truck was loaded with multiple chainsaws, carving tools, blowers, paint, and scaffolding. They got right to work and it wasn’t long before a fox started to take shape.
Every time we went out to take a peek there was something new to marvel at. The big fox. The little fox reading a book. Our logo. Our name. A little cubby to hide surprises. The word “READ” in all caps. Lots of books. Their signature.
Soon the buzz spread. Neighbors stopped by. Those making deliveries to the library took a moment to marvel. People passing in their cars pulled over to get a look at what was going on. A reporter from the Courier-News came by to get the story. The smiles we’ve seen show us this will be a treasured landmark for years to come.
The Hubbarts finished on Thursday night and packed their truck back up. Chris said they’d be back for sure as he’s been signed on to make another sculpture in the area. He and Brianne travel coast to coast to share their gift and make travel videos to document their experiences. Click on the image above to visit the special Dundee Library page they added to their website to chronicle the project. You’ll not only see a time-lapse of our chainsaw sculpture coming to life, but their enthusiastic impressions of the places they visited like Elder + Oat, Woodfire Pizza, Emmett’s Brewing Co., The Village Squire featuring musician Ben Bollero, and their stay in the 124 Lofts.
It’s been exciting to watch the sculpture emerge from a tree that’s been watching over us for the last 40 years. Chris and Brianne are so talented. It’s been a pleasure to get to know them and we are grateful to them for coming up here and creating a piece that fits so perfectly into the aesthetic of our community.
Our hope is to enhance the area come Spring with landscaping, seating, and a commemorative plaque honoring the Friends of the Library.