Oak Tree On JU Campus Killed During Hurricane Irma Transformed Into Work Of Art

Aug 30, 2019

In 2017, Hurricane Irma killed a 150-year-old oak tree on Jacksonville University’s campus.

Now that dead trunk has been transformed into a work of art.

JU suffered more than $1 million in damage during the 2017 hurricane season and lost more than 40 mature oak trees.

Clad in orange and wearing protective headgear on Wednesday, Chad Gainey was perched on top of one of those trees in front of the River House on the JU campus.

The dolphins he was carving looked as if they were bursting from the 20-foot-tall stump’s surface.

Chad Gainey, perched on top of a dead oak tree, carves dolphins into the trunk.
Credit Brendan Rivers

“Jacksonville University had this tree that got damaged during one of the hurricanes and it had to come down,” said Gainey, who started carving on Monday. “Instead of removing the tree entirely, they decided to have it sculpted into a piece of art and something to kind of represent the university.”

His chainsaw carvings can be found all around the world, and now, thanks to a partnership between JU and the power equipment manufacturer Husqvarna, Jacksonville has its own original Gainey.

Chad Gainey carves dolphins into the trunk of a 150-year-old oak tree killed during Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News

“Both [JU Grounds Manager] Mark [Swope] and I possess a love for trees and preservation. After we both arrived at JU in the fall of 2018, it did not take long for both of us to see the potential opportunity of turning what most people see as an ugly dead tree into a piece of art,” said Brendan McCarthy, General Manager for Aramark at JU. “Given the location at the River House and our vision of dolphins being carved, we started our research on how to get this done. We both have had working relationships with Husqvarna in our pasts and know what their service capabilities are.”

The new sculpture was unveiled on Thursday evening to mark the kickoff of JU’s fall semester.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.