Life-sized house of sticks celebrates Hermann Park’s Centennial

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HOUSTON, TX – They’ve been gathering sticks in Hermann Park this week, and we’re not talking the robins building nests!  Nope. Just outside the tranquil Japanese Gardens, folks are building a Hobbit-like castle of sticks.

The park hired North Carolina sculptor Patrick Dougherty to create this sapling artwork to celebrate Hermann Park’s 100th anniversary. But why all the sticks?!  Patrick goes deep in explaining, “You know about sticks. You have a shadow life of your hunting and gathering past . We all do… so there’s an immediate gratification of seeing sticks well used and the imaginative power of them.”

Dougherty has built more than 200 of these stickwork sculptures all over the world, from El Paso to Hawaii and Scotland to Japan. “I’ve always been interested in the setting where the sculpture is supposed to go… to make it one that seems like it belongs there,” says the artist. That’s why he chose the spot he did within Hermann Park, “These (surrounding) trees give such scale. They’re a little more wonky than some of the other trees. They have all kinds of weird shaped limbs, and I think (they) help with a kind of connection with the sculpture.”

But a stickwork house is not built by one man alone. Volunteers always seem to come outta the woodwork, like Carolina Coronado, “Oh, I’ve been looking forward to this since I heard about it.”

Luke Curtis, a 9th grader at the School of the Woods Montessori school, volunteered as a part of his internship, “I didn’t think you could do this with sticks at first. When I came here… I was blown away by it.”

Unlike a lot art, this Chinese tallow sculpture won’t last forever, just about two years before it starts to erode and is taken down. “There’s a certain sweetness about that– that you have to come look at it and experience it while it’s in good condition,” says Dougherty, 68 years old, but in remarkable physical shape. He credits the pressure required to bend and maneuver the larger limbs required in his art with keeping him physically fit.

Marlo Weekley signed up to help build the stickwork house when she happened upon it, walking through the park, “I saw it from a distance and I said, ‘I want to live there.'”

When it’s finally finished on Friday, January 24th, we bet a lot of folks in Hermann Park will agree!