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Jim Hirschfield speaks to a group of students in a large outdoor shelter.

Students in Jim Hirschfield’s sculpture course learn about Carolina Tree Heritage. (photo courtesy of Institute for the Environment)

Since the fall of 2021, the Carolina Tree Heritage program and Jim Hirschfield’s wood sculpture class have given downed trees on UNC’s campus new life.

Hirschfield is a professor in the department of art and art history in the College.

Carolina Tree Heritage provides students in Hirschfield’s introductory wood sculpting course with wood from trees that are taken down on campus, preventing the wood from ending up in landfills.

“These old big, beautiful trees have been around on campus since before there was a campus in many cases, so we’re really excited to do things with those trees when they come down,” said Susan Cohen, associate director at the UNC Institute for the Environment. Cohen and her colleague Tom Bythell, the university arborist, manage the heritage program.

Before receiving the wood, Hirschfield’s students tour the laydown yard where the program stores its wood supply and learn about the mission of giving downed trees a new legacy. After the visit, students are given a piece of wood to create their sculptures.

Using music as inspiration for the course, Hirschfield titled the project “Étude,” which is a musical composition focused on improving one’s technical skills.

“There’s a connection there between a project that’s a work of art but that is also designed to teach people wood processes, wood fabrication and the tools in the shop,” Hirschfield said.

Published in the Fall 2023 issue | The Scoop

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