Church Sculpture Pays Homage to Two-Centuries-Old Tree


(Sunday, July 22, 2007 12:49 PM EDT)

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church had to bid farewell to its two-centuries-old white oak after it fell in a storm in 2002. But the tree lives on through the church's recently installed stainless-steel sculpture.

Designed in the oak's likeness, the Youngblood Memorial sculpture is located on the exterior wall of the church in the memorial garden, adjacent to the 1961 cornerstone.

It is the first commissioned work of art for the church, and it was given to St. Andrew's in memory of long-time members Rubye and Curtis Youngblood by their daughter, Jane Youngblood Spurling.

Since the Youngbloods were avid art aficionados, and because the white oak was a significant part of St. Andrew's history (the tree was the site of the congregation's first service), installing an artistic sculpture made sense to the memorials committee.

The committee decided the memorial garden was an appropriate location for the sculpture, because it is where the white oak originally grew, and because Curtis Youngblood took great interest in the garden.

“[Jane Spurling] wanted something artistic,” memorials committee member Barbara Kelly said in a recent interview. “Her mother was a docent at the National Gallery of Art, and her father was always interested in the memorial garden.”

The church chose Alexandria sculptor Pat Monk to design and build the statue.

Monk's design is approximately eight feet tall and eight feet wide, and is constructed of two layers of stainless steel that have been thermally colored, using a torch, creating a mottled, multi-color area, intermingled with bright reflective areas.

“It's beautiful,” said congregation member Helen Ely. “It always looks different, depending on the time of day.”

The cost of the statue and its installation was under $10,000, Kelly said. It was dedicated in early June, in front of an audience of about 100 people.

“[The congregation's reaction] has been surprisingly good,” Kelly said. “I've had people come up to me and say it looks beautiful.”

Although the church does not have plans for another large-scale artwork, the congregation is looking for a potter to make a more informal chalice for children's services.

Memorials committee members Peggy Amos, Barbara Kelly, Jean Tienken, Trudy Koczyk, Warren Marton and the Rev. Alfred Moss.
(Photo by Michael Ely)

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