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:
- Galveston residents question fee for dead Ike-sculpture tree [abc13]
- Tree was free, but sculpture rates $10 fee [Galveston County Daily News]
- Previously on Swamplot: Rooting Out the Broadway Oaks, No Mercy for Galveston Street Trees, The Great Galveston Summer Tree Carving Festival
Photos: Candace Garcia