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Storm creates opportunity for expression of chain saw art Project featuring local notables envisions raising funds to replace trees lost in October

Ten-foot statues of a buffalo and eagle, as well as Frederick Law Olmsted and Frank Lloyd Wright, have emerged from the devastation of the October storm.

The carvings are the creation of chain saw artist Rick Pratt, who created them from fallen silver maples and Chinese elms after the snowstorm.

"These are trees that have been around for 75, 100 years, and to see them just go and disappear so easily just crushed my heart," said Therese Forton-Barnes, a native Buffalonian.

She hopes to raise at least $100,000 from business sponsorships and sales for a new generation of trees through ReTree WNY, a newly formed reforesting group.

"My hope is that we have from 40 to 80 large tree trunks that represent the entire region, from Orchard Park to Clarence."

Forton-Barnes got the idea of converting tree stumps into wood sculptures after stumbling upon Pratt's work at a friend's home in Albany shortly after the snowstorm.

She contacted the Corfu artist, and he agreed to produce dozens of sculptures resembling historic or symbolic figures tied to the region at a reduced rate for eventual sale similar to Herd About Buffalo.

Other potential subjects include President Grover Cleveland, Father Nelson Baker, Charles Burchfield and Jim Kelly, as well as violins representing the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, a lighthouse for the waterfront, Harold Arlen and a Seneca Indian.

Forton-Barnes helped raise $60,000 for the renovation of Soldiers Circle in 1999 and was heartbroken to find the storm had extensively damaged the trees and ground cover.

"I always try to give back to my community any way I possibly can, and this is the way I've chosen to dedicate my time for the next few months," said Forton-Barnes, who owns Events to a Tee, an event planning company.

The oldest logs to be sculpted come from 150-year-old oaks, Pratt said. He uses a 3-foot chain saw for his initial cuts and a 12-inch-tapered bar made of titanium for detail work. Each sculpture takes about three days.

Pratt, who is assisted in the finishing work by his wife, Judy, has been a professional wood carver for 14 years and put on demonstrations last year at America's Fair, the Erie County event in Hamburg.

A former logger and later a climber and foreman on a tree-cutting crew, Pratt said he appreciates how his involvement in the project has brought his work full circle.

"It's nice to be part of the whole cycle of life, from preserver, creator, destroyer. I have made a living off of trees my whole life. I'm glad to be involved in this cause since it's going to go towards planting trees," Pratt said.

Forton-Barnes said the group is setting up nonprofit status and will seek business sponsorships. For more information, call 886-3711 or go to www.carvingsforacause.com.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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