As the Hillsborough community says goodbye to one beloved piece of art, they can rest assured a new piece will soon again capture their hearts.

The Stickwork sculpture, A Sight To Behold created by artist Patrick Dougherty, stood tall and majestic along Riverwalk for almost three years. It will be removed mid-January, a plan since its installation in November 2015. 

The Arts Council has invited citizens to attend a ceremonial send off for the sculpture during the council’s annual Solstice Lantern Walk on Friday, Dec. 21 at 5:45 p.m.

Created from intertwined reclaimed sticks, twigs, saplings, and branches, the lifespan of the artwork was known to be limited as it was exposed to the elements. It was expected to stand for about two years, though after enduring three, it was unlikely the sculpture could withstand another winter. 

On Monday, days after the announcement of its departure, Winter Storm Diego dumped over 8 inches of snow on Hillsborough, causing the dome of the structure to cave in. In a earlier news release from the Town, it was noted that a major storm could require earlier removal of the sculpture. No updates on the deconstruction have been released at this time.

A Sight to Behold, one of over 250 stickwork sculptures from Dougherty in the past 30 years, has not only been an attraction luring tourists to Hillsborough, but has also thrust the town into a national spotlight.

In April 2017, the Riverwalk sculpture was featured on Craft in America, a PBS TV series. The series focused on the intersection of art and nature, featuring Dougherty. Their journey began on Riverwalk, and eventually moved to show his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C., where Chief Curator Nicholas Bell gave a tour of “Shindig,” an installation piece for the Renwick’s reopening exhibit WONDER. 

Within itself, the structure holds pieces of Hillsborough, as it was constructed with three town brush truckloads of southern sugar maple, sweetgum and elm saplings collected from Ayr Mount Historic Site and sewer rights of way in the Waterstone development, the release stated.

Dougherty was raised in North Carolina and attended UNC-Chapel Hill, earning his bachelor’s in English before moving to Iowa to receive his Master’s in Hospital and Health Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969. He later returned to Chapel Hill to study art history and sculpture.

During these studies, he began focusing on primitive techniques of building. Dougherty began experimenting with tree saplings and various formations and construction tactics, completing his first work in 1982. It appeared in the North Carolina Biennial Artists’ Exhibition, sponsored by the North Carolina Museum of Art. Since, this concept has grown, with these masterpieces featured worldwide.

The piece created in Hillsborough, a project commissioned by the Hillsborough Arts Council, was done with the help of 190 volunteers. 

Funding for the project came from the Hillsborough Tourism Board, the Orange County Arts Commission, the Orange County Visitors Bureau and numerous individual, business and nonprofit donors.

In an attempt not to replace the sculpture, but to add another vibrant piece of art to Riverwalk, the Hillsborough Arts Council has a new project in mind.

This piece will be created from the logs and leftover wood from the gigantic southern red oak tree that fell across Calvin Street in September due to the flooding and winds during Hurricane Florence. The tree is estimated to be over 200 years old. 

This tree, once one of the largest in town, was one of the first trees to be honored in the Town of Hillsborough Treasure Trees program, which brings awareness to the preservation of significant trees in the area.

The tree had a 27-foot circumference and was so heavy that contractors were hired to remove it with a crane, knuckleboom truck and specialized saws.

Upon its descent, Town officials had to decide the fate of this historic tree. They decided to donate the wood to the Hillsborough Arts Council through their ArtCycle program, in hopes that the materials could be recycled and given new life. 

ArtCycle serves as an avenue in which the Arts Council receives art material donations they can redistribute to local artists.

Once the tree fell, artists across the area scrambled to get their hands on a piece of the historic wood. Though much of the trunk was rotten and unfit to keep, the remaining pieces were piled at the corner of Calvin and Nash Streets fixed with a ownership sign for the Hillsborough Arts Council. Artists have been eager to hear the plans for this tree, said Torey Mishoe, Executive Director for the Hillsborough Arts Council.

What exactly the piece will look like is still a mystery to the public, but Mishoe believes the community will come to love it just as well. 

“[This piece] is not at all a replacement to Stickwork, it’s not intended to replace it, only in that it will be a new piece of public art as we move a piece of public art,” Mishoe said. “It is a completely different project, we have no intention of trying to one-up or replace it in everyone’s hearts. There are so many heartbroken people over stickwork.”

The Hillsborough Arts Council is working with the Town of Hillsborough and the Orange County Arts Commission to determine location, among other things. It will not be located at the site of the former Stickwork sculpture, though the new location has yet to be released. 

“I do know what the plan is in the long run ... I just hesitate to say anything because it is so early and we haven’t put all the final details together,” Mishoe said. “We’re kind of keeping it under wraps until we have a real plan in place that we can field all the questions people will ultimately have.”

The Arts Council will put out a call for artists in January. According to Mishoe, they could be looking for either an individual or a team of artists, they are still unsure. 

For now, they are focused on moving the wood before the end of the year, making sure it is properly dried and treated in order to prolong its life.

Though the Stickwork sculpture had a short life, Mishoe said this work of public art will have a much longer lifespan. Like Stickwork, the project will be a centrally located piece of art, crafted from the preserved remnants of the Calvin Street Tree, for the enjoyment of all residents and visitors to downtown Hillsborough, a release from the Hillsborough Arts Council stated. 

“The plan is for something completely different, someplace else,” Mishoe said. “We hope whatever it becomes, which we don’t even know what it’s going to become yet, ultimately is something people enjoy as much as they enjoyed the Stickwork and I’ll become as much as part of the community as stickwork did.”