Despite Washington's large and diverse collection of memorials and monuments, the nation's capital still lacks a proper tribute to its "international harmony," in the view of sculptor Steven Weitzman, who has designed a work he hopes will fill that void.
Weitzman's design, a lifelike 12-foot-high sculpture of three youths planting a tree, has not only brought his artistry to the attention of the United Nations, but also a bit of recognition to a grand old Rockville tree.
Weitzman has been working from dawn to dusk recently in a Seneca Creek State Park maintenance yard in Gaithersburg to finish the three-ton sculpture within his 100-day time limit. He is carving the scene out of an American Elm tree that for nearly two centuries shaded stately Montgomery Avenue in old residential Rockville until it fell victim to disease.
Earlier this year, a similar work by Weitzman was unveiled at Martinak State Park in Denton, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, in celebration of Arbor Day. The carving of two children planting a tree was created from the Wye Oak -- a 440-year-old Oak tree located in Wye Mills, also on the Eastern Shore.
Though the eventual home of Weitzman's work in progress is expected to be in Washington, at an undetermined site, Weitzman must have the piece nearly completed and in New York City by Oct. 12, when it is to be placed on the United Nations Plaza.
It will be shown there for four weeks as a temporary working exhibit to commemorate two concurrent U.N. celebrations: the 1985 International Youth Year and the U.N.'s 40th anniversary on Oct. 24.
On the plaza, with the help of student models from the U.N. International School, Weitzman will add the facial features to the three youths and complete the sculpture.
The sculpture -- in which the youths are watering a tree, leaning on a spade and reaching toward a dove in the tree's branches -- visualizes International Youth Year's theme of Peace, Participation and Development, Weitzman said, and also IYY's efforts promoting conservation of the worldwide environment for use by future generations.
Weitzman is not being paid for the project, although his project was endorsed by the United Nations and the American Forestry Association, and the Seneca Creek working space was donated by Maryland.
He is seeking donations through the AFA to help cover his costs, which he estimates will be $47,000, including $5,000 to remove the American Elm, which ranges from seven to 10 feet in diameter, from Alice Parsons' front yard and $18,000 for transportation of the artwork by truck to and from New York City.
Other wood sculptures by Weitzman, who worked as a commercial artist in Colorado for 13 years before turning to sculpture full time several years ago, are located at Montgomery County's Lathrop E. Smith Environmental Education Center in Rockville and in Florida and Colorado.