'Flatbush Trees' Sculpture Awaits Multicolored Makeover as Locals Fundraise

By Rachel Holliday Smith on August 6, 2014 8:15am 

Slideshow
 Installation artist Dave Eppley hopes to decorate the Flatbush Avenue tree sculpture with colored vinyl.
Flatbush 'Trees' Art Project
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PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS  A tree sculpture grew in Brooklyn and now it needs a makeover, according to locals who want to upgrade the artwork.

Three sheet-metal-and-concrete figures known as "the Flatbush trees” have stood for more than three decades at the busy intersection of Empire Boulevard, Flatbush Avenue and Ocean Avenue, greeting visitors to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, both of which have entrances nearby.

But for several years, residents have worried the sculpture has become more of an eyesore than a welcoming fixture.

“The tree sculpture is dented, rusty, falling apart,” wrote Tim Thomas, a local and the author of the blog The Q at Parkside. He's spearheading an effort to refurbish the trees.

“Its decay says, ‘You are entering a part of Brooklyn that doesn't care.’ It's not true, of course," he wrote.

Last fall, the installation artist Dave Eppley received $2,000 in grant money and the go-ahead from the Department of Transportation and Community Board 9 to revamp the trees with a psychedelic design made up of hundreds of multi-colored vinyl hexagons. Eppley, who lives on nearby Lefferts Avenue, said he hopes to get local kids involved in making the hexagons, which he said will look like flowers when they’re done.

“I’ve actually recruited about four or five schools from this neighborhood who are going to participate by making these flowers with me,” he said in a video created by Thomas to promote the project. “We’re then going to apply them to the surface of the trees on the front and back and sides so the trees go from their drab green to a bright and beautiful, colorful pattern.”

But the project has floundered for lack of funds. The vinyl alone costs about $8,000, according to a budget posted to a crowdfunding page for the project, which includes other costs like surface prep tools, scaffolding and insurance.

Now, Thomas and Eppley are pushing to raise the rest of the money they need  about $10,000  from neighbors, friends or anyone interested in the public art project.

“All we need is money for the materials and we're off,” the crowdfunding page reads, stressing that all the necessary agencies have signed off on the project and the artist is ready to start.

Thomas took to his blog, as well, to ask for support.

“Give modestly or extravagantly so we can finally turn these trees into a piece of public art that will be the envy of the town,” he wrote.

The campaign to raise funds for the project will last for 45 days, ending on Sept. 19. For more information, visit the project’s website.

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