Willows weaved into Stickwork project in Vail (video) | VailDaily.com

Willows weaved into Stickwork project in Vail (video)

Have you traveled over to Ford Park and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens lately? If your answer is yes, then you most likely have seen the large stick structures that look like they are swaying in the wind. These mysterious shapes are made out of locally foraged willows and are the handiwork of sculptor Patrick Dougherty and his team of volunteers.

The town of Vail Art in Public Places organization is responsible for bringing North Carolina-based renowned environmental artist Patrick Dougherty to Vail this summer to give our community a whimsical work of art that can be touched, photographed, walked through and talked about.

Between four and six tons of willow sticks will be used for the project, which started in early June. Dougherty travels to each of the installment locations in advance to determine which type of materials he should use. For example, if he does projects out east, he is most likely using maple. In the midwest he'll use elm or rough leaf dogwoods. In someplace more exotic, like Hawaii, he'll use eucalyptus or strawberry guava branches as his medium.

During his younger days while Dougherty was in the military, he took part in the Army Arts and Crafts Program. "It was fantastic. I repaired antiques, I soldered, I was able to weld. I was just able to immerse myself every night for three years in the ideas of making things using all sorts of different materials," Dougherty said.

After being in the service, he went back to school using the G.I. Bill and spent two years at the University of North Carolina. "It was there and then that I really started to ask myself what sculpture was, what art was to me."

For the past 35 years, Dougherty has built over 300 of these types of structures using sticks all over the world. It takes him and his team about three weeks to complete the project. His son Sam, is also in Vail working on the project. The rest of the help comes from small crews of about four or five volunteers in the mornings and a different group in the afternoon.

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His art captures the imagination of young and old. It also leaves a lasting impression.

Chris and Susan Addington of Wichita, Kansas stopped by the construction of the sculpture because they'd recognized Dougherty's work.

"We'd been on a scenic trip to New England years ago and saw one of Dougherty's sculptures in Salem. We saw pictures of his work and heard he was here," said Chris Addington. "It's fun that you can wander in and out of the structures. It's sort of mysterious, sort of like exploring a cave."

"We'll be back in July with our seven-year-old grandson, this will be really fun for him to see," added Susan Addington.

"Thank you for having me in your community," said Dougherty. "The city has been so prepared for us and we have a great partnership. And your weather is a lot cooler than what I'd be getting in North Carolina right now!"

Learn more at an artist presentation and book signing with Dougherty on Monday, June 18 at Donovan Pavilion at 5:30 p.m. A community celebration and ribbon cutting will be held on Friday, June 22 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Ford Park.