When someone mentions Arbor Day, I always think of the Rush rock anthem “The Trees,” which describes a power struggle between oaks and maples. I also flash back to the Our Gang/Little Rascals episode in which Alfalfa croons Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees,” which opens with, “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”
Sedalia’s Tree Board is working to spread the beauty of trees – and the importance of creating an urban forest – through a mobile four-panel mural being created by local artist Linda Hoover.
Tree board member Dr. Douglas Kiburz noted that Sedalia was designated a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2009, and among criteria for the honor is to sponsor an Arbor Day event. The board oversees distribution and planting of 1,500 trees each spring as part of this effort, he said, but it also has offered events such as photo contests and providing tree education DVDs to area schools.
“This year, a mural was considered to celebrate Sedalia’s commitment to our urban forest and our Tree City USA designation,” Kiburz said.
Hoover’s husband, David, had a shoulder problem and went to see Kiburz about it.
“After dealing with him, (Kiburz) said, ‘Now about the mural,’” Hoover said. “He’s such a man of action, he just wanted to get the mural project going.”
Hoover started about a month ago and is near completion of the four-panel painting, which depicts four trees commonly found in Missouri through the four seasons. The first of the 4-foot-by-6-foot panels is spring, featuring a flowering dogwood, which is Missouri’s state tree. The summer panel has an oak, fall has a maple and winter is a black walnut. Her source for the black walnut is a tree in her backyard.
“As much as I can, I am painting from life,” Hoover said. “But because it is a quick project, I am having to rely on images from the Internet.”
Kiburz said the board wanted the mural to include the four seasons but left most of the design up to Hoover, “with just a few suggestions. The four seasons on four panels makes it reasonably portable to take to schools, churches, civic areas and anyone interested in displaying the artistry of the mural process and the concept of focusing on how important trees are to the environment.”
Most people “take our trees for granted,” Kiburz argues, and he has a point. “The shade we enjoy today is provided by trees planted by prior generations and our goal is to pay it forward.”
Fellow tree board member Mona McCormack, a science teacher at Smith-Cotton High School, came up with the idea for Hoover to work on the mural as an artist-in-residence in one of the school’s art classrooms. Hoover is truly enjoying the experience, having taught art before her retirement.
“The students get to see a professional artist at work, which is fun for me, too,” she said. “Sometimes they come up and talk with me, and I do wander around and see what they are working on from time to time. I think it is a good thing for them to see, that this is a serious profession.”
Kiburz added, “Moving Linda’s work into the classroom seems to have created a great example for the art students of where art can take you.”
Hoover expects to have the mural done within the next week or so, in plenty of time for the April 25 Arbor Day celebration. It then will be available for display to help raise awareness to the tree board’s work and the importance of creating an urban forest in Sedalia. Kiburz is hopeful that residents invest some time to research which tree they should plant based on the Missouri climate, as well as soil, shade and water needs.
“Consideration should be made for a tree’s height, canopy spread, whether it’s deciduous or coniferous and what you want the tree to provide,” he said, such as shade, privacy, wind break, habitat or trying to increase the value of your property. “The planting is just the start, as nurturing the tree is an ongoing project which includes mulching, watering, staking and wrapping, pruning and protecting the root systems.”
He suggested visiting arborday.org/trees for help selecting the right tree for your needs.
Hoover said the plan is for the mural to eventually find a permanent home. But for now, she is focused on getting it finished on time.
“I’m doing what I love to do,” she said.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.