To celebrate the completion of Merica’s first 90 days as Executive Director, the Nature Consortium staff ventured out to lunch in South Lake Union. On our way to the restaurant we spotted a breathtakingly enormous sculpture in the window of a nearby shop. Tim Detweiler, the director of the MadArt gallery space, invited us in to take a closer look.

Middle Fork, Tim explained, is a life-sized sculpture of a hemlock tree made from a plaster cast of a 140-year-old tree that still stands today in North Bend, WA. The sculpture is the work of Seattle artist John Grade, who specializes in large scale sculptures inspired by nature. At MadArt, we watched three volunteers glue small wooden pieces together into what would become one of the tree branches. The video below explains more about the project.


The Middle Fork project began in April 2014 in a forest near the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in the Cascade foothills. The sculpture is currently in progress and on view at MadArt in Seattle, WA through April 25, 2015. The sculpture will travel to venues around the US and internationally for two years. After being exhibited, the sculpture will be returned to the base of the standing old-growth Hemlock it was cast from to gradually moss over and disintegrate into the ground.

We love this project because it contains all of the things we love about environmental art.

  • It’s accessible and participatory. Hundreds of volunteers work together with the artist to assemble the piece, and anyone can walk in and see the work in action.
  • It’s environmentally conscious throughout the whole life cycle. Middle Fork is made from salvaged old-growth cedar wood which will be returned to the forest when the project is complete.
  • It shows what happens when art and nature converge. The intricacy of the sculpture allows us to think about the beauty of nature in a new way.

These are the same ideas that Nature Consortium employs in our EcoARTS programming. Emily Taibleson, who teaches Earthworks classes as part of our Group Adventures program, draws inspiration from John Grade’s body of work, as well as other environmental artists. In the West Duwamish Greenbelt, she works with students to create large outdoor sculptural installations made from organic materials. Each student adds their own contribution to create an ongoing, evolving installation that enhances the landscape and will gradually decompose over time.

To learn more about our class offerings and how you can book a Group Adventure, visit this page.