Trio delivers on goal of gallery feature

PENDLETON — It took three years and hundreds of hours of work — with a break for a pandemic and pauses for donated services to occur — but Gallery 119 finally has its landmark sculpture outside its building.

“It puts us on the map a little better,” said Tracy Davidson, one of three artists who created the 750-plus-pound, 17-1/2-feet-tall metal tree. “It shows that we’re here and capable and creative.”

The tree stands in a 40-wide-by-30-inch-deep space between the gallery — which is located on the south side of State Street between Pendleton Avenue and Main Street — and the building to the west.

The sculpture, with a forged steel framework inside and covered outside with 22 gauge steel sheeting hammered and worked with a welder to look like bark, has branches adorned with more than 650 copper leaves leaves.

“I’m really happy with the way it turned out,” said Jerry Wymer, who with Davidson and Vic Eichhorn comprised the artistic trio.

The sculpture was installed in April and dedicated in a ceremony on Monday.

It was a project that got its start as an idea in 2018, Wymer said, when he was president of Pendleton Artists Society, the organization that runs the gallery.

He had been working with the Town of Pendleton on downtown facade improvement, when it seemed like a good time to pursue his longtime dream to make a sculpture, he said.

“I talked to the (gallery) board and said, ‘I think, you know, you go to a lot of art galleries and things of this nature, and you’ll see a sculpture out in front of the art galleries. And this would be a perfect spot for some kind of sculpture that really highlighted that this is a art gallery. It simply went from there.”

Several members submitted designs, including Davidson, whose plan ultimately was selected.

Wymer said most of the work took place at Eichhorn’s workshop in Middletown. That’s where the trio did the heating, bending, hammering and welding.

“We started from the design in May of 2019 to actually physically bending metal after it’s been heated up in a kiln, and putting it together and welding all these pieces together as we built the tree, starting with the base, obviously, and moving up the side of the tree, making it look like a tree, in regards to hammering the metal into place,” Wymer said.

They built a custom cart to hold and move the sculpture around; they built a mock-up of the space where the sculpture was going to go, so that they could make sure it would fit correctly before bringing it downtown.

They finished up work on the tree at Wymer’s workshop in Pendleton, where one of the last things to do was attach the leaves.

While the trio supplied the labor and paid for much of the material, they did receive some critical help from area businesses at key points, Wymer said.

Two Anderson business — CB Fabricating, which laser-cut the leaves from a copper roll, and Carrara Custom Powder Coating — donated the use of their equipment and expertise.

Fredericks Inc. Contractors of Pendleton supplied a crane and operator to help install the tree, lifting is up and lowering it down over the anchors in the concrete where it was bolted down.

Other businesses and individuals, including Swackhamer Masonry & Concrete and town employees, also helped out.

Eichorn said he is “very pleased” with the final result. “I think it’s an enhancement.”

“I think it draws a lot of attention. It draws that eye as you’re driving down the street. The copper leaves glittering in the sun.

“There are very few trees in downtown Pendleton,” he said, noting that this one will not impede the use of the sidewalks and is unlikely to cause any other problems in the future.

And, “we had a fun time doing it.”

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