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While nature inspires art every day, a new project would turn nature into art.

The Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department will ask for artist submissions to turn three tree stumps in Memorial Park into sculptures.

The department has already cut one tree down. The other two are still up and are near the main pavilion of the park.

Leann Porrello, cultural arts specialist, said people can find sculptures using tree stumps in other cities around the country, such as Chicago.

"Chicago does the Dead Tree Project, same project," she said. "The difference though is the Dead Tree Project is about taking random dead trees and turning them (into sculptures). We're being intentional with this because we know these have to come down."

Porrello said she went for calling it the Giving Tree Project after the "Giving Tree" book.

"We don't really want to call it the Dead Tree Project because it's about giving back to the community and giving trees life and turning them into something beautiful the community can love," she said.

The trees are coming down anyway, she said, because of the fungal disease called Oak Wilt.

Over time, the fungus causes the tree to lose its leaves, become discolored and eventually die.

The stumps will be around 8 feet tall, Porrello said. While still big enough to be carved, the tree won't continue growing.

Old age is also a contributing factor, city forester Ray Wallace said.

The trees are already dead, he said, which means the roots aren't growing anymore and the stump will stay a stump.

Wallace said the disease is spread through the roots of the tree, which means it's hard to completely stop the spread, short of digging around every tree to cut the roots.

Wallace said the department became aware of the infection about a decade ago.

"This has been going on for years," he said. "Just like anything else, as we grow old, we get more weak and feeble and are attacked easier by disease. When we're stressed, we're more likely to get sick. Trees aren't much different."

Porrello said she estimates the sculptures will last at least three to five years, but potentially longer.

This won't be the first tree carving in Jefferson City.

In 1994, residents made a 6-foot-tall wood carving of Donald Duck, which sat at the intersection of West Main Street and Donald Avenue for at least nine years.

"I'm not from this town originally," Porrello said. "I guess it was a huge staple of peers of mine who grew up seeing it, driving by it every day."

Porrello said the goal is to unveil the new sculptures as part of an Earth Day event next year, which would include other activities around the "Giving Tree" book.

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