Lexington artist sculpts new life into tree in Wilmore

Published 1:35 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Age caused an oak tree from the 1800’s to tumble to the ground in Wilmore this past summer. Now, one Lexington man is giving the tree new life. 

Kiptoo Tarus started to sculpt the tree located at the corner of East Main Street and Campground Lane, at the beginning of October.

Tarus, an artist from Nairobi, Kenya, has taken on numerous other sculpture projects. 

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“My mentor handed me a chisel and that started it all,” Tarus said. “I now have been sculpting wood for ten years.”

Tarus said he hopes the tree can stayed anchored from the bottom so children can climb on the structure. 

“This tree is one of four pre-settlement oaks on this property, meaning it goes back to before Daniel Boone’s time,” Andy Bathje, Executive Director of AdventureServe Ministries, said. “These trees would have been standing when the camp was settled in 1890 and when this land was first set apart for Ministry purposes.”

Tarus has only visited Wilmore five times to sculpt the tree. Tarus said after sculpting for one day the wood has to rest so the sculpture can, grow into place.

Tarus said his vision for the sculpture is for the finished project to be a representation of spiritual warfare. 

“The sculpture will be two figures, or forces, pulling against each other,” Tarus said. “We all have so much comfort, but there are still so many struggles you have to go through.”  

The tree sculpture in progress is on the AdventureServe Ministries property and is expected to be finished sometime in the spring or fall of next year. 

Kristy Kristine, Wilmore Resident and friend of Tarus, heard of the tree falling on the Wilmore property and got Tarus in touch with AdventureServe Ministers — a ministry that guides short-term missions throughout Appalachia to serve community members in need — to start the project.

“The idea of leaving the tree here was an aspect of our mission,” Bathje said. “Which is interacting with nature. There was a beauty to this Oak when it fell. Many local folks said, ‘hey I would be glad to cut this wood for fire-wood,’ but I said, ‘Well, let’s just see what happens with it.’”

Then by providence Kip (Tarus) would find his way to the AdventureServe to work on the project, Bathje said.

Other sculptures Tarus has created —such as the 14-foot angel that resides at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington — can be found in Fayette County.

This new project in Jessamine County is his first sculpture of this magnitude. 

Tarus said he does the work just to get it out there, and he does it without compensation. 

However, during his projects Tarus needs help with lodging, meals and supplies he uses to make the sculpture so there is a “Go-Fund Me” page at http://bit.ly/2esgs7X.

“Hopefully the community can help support the arts and help this tree be preserved,” he said.