"Monument to the Elm"

John Faust, University of Northern Iowa art major
Year Installed: 
Location Detail: 
Lutheran Student Center at 2616 College Street in Cedar Falls.

Title of Work: "Monument to the Elm" - commonly known as "The Treeman"

Cost: Faust received three hours credit from the Independent Studies Program for his work on the sculpture. Also, he and his wife, Chris, were allowed to stay at the Lutheran Center while he was working on the project.

Description: Faust carved the sculpture out of a 125-year-old elm tree that succumbed to Dutch elm disease. The tree was trimmed and shortened until only a twenty-three foot stump and two branches remained. The sculptor shortened the stump three feet before beginning his work. Out of the trunk and branches, Faust carved a grieving man with his arms outstretched. The base of the sculpture was the original tree stump.

Purpose of the Sculpture: The project came about from the Lutheran Center's Reverend John Deines' interest in preserving the 125-year-old tree. The Reverend Deines contacted Faust through the Department of Art. Faust intended the work to be a reminder of the devastating effects of Dutch elm disease.

Restoration Project: It was the artist's intention that "The Monument to the Elm" should be allowed to decay naturally, as a statement of death and dying. However, fungus infected the tree causing it to decay rapidly. The natural effects of weathering had caused the wood to split and woodpeckers had successfully pecked two holes in its chest. By 1981, the base was also deteriorating, creating a safety hazard.

These conditions prompted the Save the Elm fundraiser, which aimed to raise money to have the elm chemically treated for preservation. Around $20,000 was needed to complete the restoration. Not enough money was raised, however, so the "Monument to the Elm" was taken down in September 1981.

Two years later extensive donations brought the elm back. The sculpture's interior had been coated with epoxy, resin, and fiberglass. Also, a new cement base was used rather than the original tree stump. The work was reinstalled after the homecoming parade on October 8, 1983, as shown in the photograph to the right.

Removal: By 1994, the tree was showing the effects of thirteen years of decay. Plans were made to replace it with a new sculpture. In May 1995, "Monument to the Elm" was removed and replaced by "Triumph over Tragedy."

Compiled by Sarah Eaton; edited by Susan Basye
Special Collections and University Archives
December 1997