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'Wishing Tree' coming to Superior

Welding students at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior weld branches onto a metal tree in the classroom. The finished Wishing Tree sculpture will be officially unveiled on Friday. (Submitted photo)

A sculpture featuring curved metal branches and dangling wishes — to be installed this week in Superior — will dare passersby to dream.

The Wishing Tree, created by welding students at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Superior over the past several months, will be officially unveiled at a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

It will be installed at 1104 Tower Ave., where the Palace Theater used to stand, in the lot beside Sclavi's Restaurant. Members of the public are encouraged to become part of the project by hanging their wishes, hopes and dreams on the metal artwork.

"Wishing Tree projects have brought communities together across the globe," said Alison Price, Phantom Galleries director. "A tree, actual or sculptural, is slowly covered with strips of fabric or tags with the community's wishes tied the branches. Surprisingly, many of the wishes are not for a new electronic device, or vacation, but rather are heartfelt and altruistic. People wish for healing, a job, friendship and hope."

For months, a baker's dozen of WITC welding students have shaped metal into the tree that towers more than 10 feet tall.

"It's been a lot of work but it's been fun," said welding instructor Aleasha Hladilek.

She intertwined learning and art, expanding student skills beyond traditional classwork.

"It was a big relief, I think, for them to do something that wasn't quite as technical," Hladilek said. "Something that's not a straight line because we do, obviously, a lot of straight lines."

One week, the students' technical blueprint was replaced with branch work. Students heated and bent metal rods into branches with the use of an oxy-acetylene torch. Another week, they created roots. They twined round stock around the open trunk section, turning hundreds of pounds of metal into a tree.

"Bringing it into this class there was a lot more laughter than there usually is," Hladilek said.

The public art, which will be lit at night, will remain in place for about two months, Price said, catching dreams.

"The community of Superior has been very receptive to community participation art events," Price said. More than 600 painters, ranging in age from 6 months to 85, left their mark on the north exterior wall of 1322 Banks Ave. during the "Our Superior Community Mural" project in spring 2013.

"People came from far and near to be part of the project," Price said. "We hope that a similar response is felt with the upcoming Wishing Tree."

The project, designed by Hladilek and her class, is sponsored by the Superior Business Improvement District, the Wisconsin Arts Board, Phantom Galleries Superior and the National Endowment of the Arts.

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