The Bluestem Nature Center opened earlier this summer and is beginning to take on more character as the Monticello Parks Department is getting things done inside and outside in what used to be a house, which was first built in 1850. The Twin Lakes High School trade school added a room at the back of the house and took their time with the project because of the recent pandemic.
The tree behind the Bluestem Nature Center is beginning to look a lot more like a piece of art now that chainsaw artist Robert Thompson is almost done with it. When he first started working on it this spring, you couldn’t tell exactly what creatures he was creating. He’s been working on it all summer whenever he has the chance to.
Thompson, who runs RT3 Carving LLC, only works on the former tree when he has the time. He has a full-time job that sometimes requires him to work 12-hour days and he also goes to school. That’s why he’s been taking so long to get the project done.
The project is being paid for by a $4,000 donation from the previous owners of the property, Eldred and Max Hauk. Another local chainsaw artist, Chaz Chiafos, bid on the project as well. “His bid was twice as much,” explained Parks Superintendent Mitch Billue.
In any case, the Parks Department wasn’t in any hurry for it to get done, so Thompson got the job. He’s a former resident of Monticello, who now lives in West Lafayette. He started his part-time business in 2018.
Besides the chainsaw art, Billue said that volunteers will be painting a mural on the wall next to the chainsaw art as well. He said the Parks Board has even more in the plans for the outside of the center and visitors will eventually have a clear view of the amphitheater in Altherr Park, which sits next to the center but is blocked by trees and brush.
By the time Thompson is done with the tree, it will contain a Canadian Goose, a Long-Horned Owl along with its young, a raccoon, a Monarch butterfly, a woodpecker, a fox, and maybe a turtle. You see he’s not done with it. He won’t be applying any paint to it though as he wants to keep it natural. “It’s going to be like it grew out of the rocks below,” he said.
He plans on having it complete before winter, so he’s nearing completion on it. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said.