Here’s The Inspiring Message Behind The Unusual Aluminum Tree In Brewer
So, what's the story behind that tin tree?
You've probably driven by it hundreds if not thousands of times. It's not something that really stands out as you drive by, which is by design. A metallic-looking tree with no leaves and two park benches, that you've never really seen anyone sitting in.
Why is it there? How did it come about? Well, there's a reason.
Back in July of 2002, the City of Brewer appointed a committee to oversee a project that would present "a symbol of the growth and rebirth of the City of Brewer," as Economic Development Director Drew Sachs told the Brewer City Council back then. A site for the project was chosen, at the corner of Chamberlain and Wilson Street between what was then Rite Aid and Wendy's.
Whatever symbol that was would be constructed on-site.
The city of Brewer already had a very good relationship going with the University of Maine as both had worked together on a couple of projects previously. Artist Sam Van Aken, who was an assistant art professor teaching a summer course at the University of Maine then was chosen to lead the charge, and his students submitted their ideas.
Mr. Aken "had a thing for trees", and a very smart and ambitious student's idea of a metallic-looking fruit tree was chosen, not only for the design but because the tree itself would look familiar and not distract those driving on a very busy Wilson Street.
That student was Sharon Louise Anderson, and she was a "go-getter", to say the least.
Ms. Anderson graduated from nursing school at Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute before becoming a self-taught master finish carpenter. She worked as a nurse while raising two sons and picked up an associate degree in occupational therapy, graduating summa cum laude from Kennebec Valley Community College; an art degree and a master's degree in psychology from the University of Maine, graduating summa cum laude; and a Master of Education in counselor education with a 4.0 GPA.
She didn't stop there. She would become a pipefitter for Cianbro, the last job she would ever have. A job that would come in awfully handy when constructing an aluminum tree.
Sharon Louise Anderson passed away from cancer at the age of 50 in 2010, according to her obituary. Her family and friends said that she lived life with "strength, compassion, equanimity, hard work, and abundant humor."
But the 15 foot-tall three-dimensional aluminum fruit tree within a bed of bricks with a park bench on either side still stands proudly as a symbol of growth and rebirth for the City of Brewer and as a reminder of what can be done during one's short time here on earth.
Thank you very much to James Smith and Aimee Cyr of the City of Brewer for their help with this post.