Center for Craft gives ‘tree of life’ to Cookeville Regional

Most of us know someone who has cancer or has been affected by the disease and would do anything to make the experience less painful. The Appalachian Center for Craft medals department tried to do just that.

The “Tree of Life” sculpture was unveiled at Cookeville Regional Medical Center yesterday. The tree was made at the Appalachian Center for Craft for the John and Lela Rose Mattingly Memorial Garden at the cancer center.

“My personal connection is from the number of friends and family who have been affected or killed by cancer,” said Head of the Medals Department Robert Coogan.

MaryDell Sommers, who volunteers for The Putnam County Master Gardeners, and others formed a design team for the garden last February with a desire for a whimsical feel, according to Sommers. She contacted Coogan in the fall about constructing animals for the new garden.

“After seeing the garden and talking with her,” said Coogan, “I proposed the tree of life sculpture. We started working on the animals last semester and finished just a few days ago.”

After coming up with the idea, Coogan asked his students to be involved by creating an animal of their choice as a class assignment. The tree is made of steel and attached are copper leaves and animals, including a lizard, bobcat and rat.

Metals student Abe Pardee was able to contribute to the project and the hospital by making the rat for the tree.

“I appreciated the opportunity to give something back to the community through my work,” said Pardee.

Artist in Residence Sung-Yeoul Lee and four metals students cut and formed the tree. Coogan and Lee attached the leaves and animals before Coogan installed the statue Tuesday.

Sommers said, “This whole thing was done because of the encouragement of the foundation. If we had not had The Foundation’s help, we would not have gotten where we are.”

The Foundation is a charitable organization associated with the hospital. They solicit and receive money and real or personal property to aid the hospital in giving to the community and make contributions and grants for this purpose.

Foundation Executive Director Gary Curto and Rosemary Ponti facilitated this project.