Sapling Sampling


JOHNSON CITY (September 11, 2013) – Environmental artist Patrick Dougherty may hail from North Carolina, but his pieces of public art adorn landscapes and buildings, inside and out, the world over.

Dougherty will create a sculpture of saplings on the campus of ETSU this fall.  To prepare the community for this interactive process, ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, which will sponsor his residency, is screening a new feature-length documentary on his work, “Bending Sticks: The Sculpture of Patrick Dougherty,” on Monday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. in the D.P. Culp University Center’s Martha Street Culp Auditorium.

The film is free and will be followed by a panel discussion on public art by regional art and arts professionals and a reception in the Alumni Gallery outside the auditorium. Dougherty’s new book, Stickwork, will also be available for purchase at the film and reception.

“Bending Sticks” celebrates Dougherty’s 25-year career, during which he has created hundreds of monumental, site-specific sculptures out of nothing more than saplings. The film by Penelope Maunsell and Kenny Dalsheimer follows the artist and his collaborators during a year of “stickwork” and reveals Dougherty's process, personal story and inspirations.

“Bending Sticks” explores how Doutherty’s childhood – spent rambling through the woods and building forts and hideouts with his four siblings – fueled his career and nurtured his work around the world – in such places as Tacoma, Wash.; Honolulu; Dublin; Brooklyn; and Tokyo.

The heart of the film is the creation of five Dougherty commissions in different locations – inside the new wing of the North Carolina Museum of Art; on Main Street in Rock Hill, S.C.; at a private home in Chapel Hill, N.C.; at the Bascom Art Center in Highlands, N.C.; and in the gardens of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. At each location, viewers see how Dougherty and many others transform piles of sticks into energetic lines and exuberant forms.  Dougherty's projects invite collaboration and engage communities in the making and viewing of his very public art.

“This whole project is exciting for us,” says Mary B. Martin School of the Arts Director Anita DeAngelis. “We’ll recruit community volunteers and engage classes in several disciplines in the making of the artwork. Watching the film and helping with the construction are fantastic ways to learn more about public art.  

“We wanted to let the public know about the project well ahead of the actual creation of the art in November, and this documentary is a great way to learn about Patrick and his work and vision. We are hoping to recruit some volunteers for the project at the film.”

The documentary was selected to be part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers this year, although not part of the ETSU Southern Circuit screenings, and honored at the Reel Earth Environmental and Newport Beach film festivals this year. For more on the film, which was sponsored by the Southern Documentary Fund, visit  the website on Dougherty’s book,

Starting the first week of November, Dougherty will spearhead the creation of a temporary sculpture of woven saplings designed especially for the grounds of ETSU. This work will involve volunteers from the campus and wider community. ETSU’s Sustainability program, art classes and science disciplines will be participating, DeAngelis says.

“It takes a large crew to harvest the saplings and then build the work,” she says. “This is pretty exciting for us, especially because the City of Johnson City now has a public art committee.  One of the great things is that Dougherty actually engages the community in the creative process with all the volunteers needed. The project really is public.”

During his residency, on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Culp Auditorium, Dougherty will discuss his career in a public lecture, followed by a question-and-answer session and reception.

For information about the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts, call (423) 439-TKTS (8587) or visit “Like” ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts on Facebook and follow it on Twitter at TheArtsAtETSU.

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