Galveston’s Dead-Tree Sculptures: Now Entirely Fee Free!

Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski now says he will waive the $10 annual permit fees the city had planned on charging 3 homeowners whose dead-tree sculptures stand in the public right-of-way. Homeowner Donna Leibbert started a small local-media firestorm late last week after she received a permit renewal form in the mail for the sculpture of a Geisha that artist Jim Phillips had carved out of an oak tree outside Leibbert’s home at 1717 Ball St. After the Hurricane Ike storm surge killed an estimated 30,000 trees on the island, artists turned almost 2 dozen of them into sculptures. But Leibbert’s Geisha is one of only 3 of the works that sits on city property.

City spokesperson Alice Cahill, who has helped to publicize the sculpture program as a tourist attraction, tells Amanda Casanova of the Galveston County Daily News that the license-to-use fee is normally required for any designed object that occupies a portion of the right-of-way. “A carved tree is treated the same as a cafe table.” Leibbert tells Casanova she was aware of the permit requirement at the time the Geisha was carved — getting approval for the sculpture required a formal application with the city’s planning commission. But she notes that the tree had stood in the same position for about 100 years, and for free.

Over the summer, Swamplot photographer Candace Garcia tracked down 22 of the tree sculptures, including Leibbert’s Geisha. Here’s her photo tour:


Photos: Candace Garcia

6 Comment

  • I wonder which bright individual thought of that stupid idea…..

    Like 30 bucks is what the city needs. Amazing. So now, the mayor is a hero, right? LOL

  • Someone was doing their job enforcing a city code. When publicized, the code was waived. And a unique, cool thing about Galveston that I was hitherto unaware of got publicized. I don’t see any bad guys here, and the end result is great.

    By the way, those photos are fantastic!

  • The way I understood the issue, this was the first time the fee was imposed on the tree art. Ike was in ’08. I don’t remember when the sculptures were done but please, there’s 3 of them. Not 300. I would hope that the city employee responsible for this action would have first cleared it through some official who in turn would have anticipated the backlash.

    And I completely agree, the photos are outstanding!

  • Trees are fun…. trees are neat… DIE TREES DIE

  • The one thing that I have always admired about the residents of Galveston is their ‘can do’ attitude. It has been two years and nine months since “Ike” hit; but, this city has been busy setting about rebuilding—not, continuously crying with their collective hands held out, bemoaning, “Somebody needs to help us” like the residents of New Orleans have since “Katrina” back in 2005! The real Americans get busy with rebuilding—not begging, and expecting, continuous hand outs.

  • Oh lovely. A comment about “real Americans.”