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9-foot tree sculpture to be unveiled at Atascadero Library

Artist Lauren Birkhahn works to finish the 9-foot-tall Radiant Reading Oak art project she designed for the Atascadero Library children's section.
Artist Lauren Birkhahn works to finish the 9-foot-tall Radiant Reading Oak art project she designed for the Atascadero Library children's section. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Atascadero artist Lauren Birkhahn’s 9-foot tree sculpture will be unveiled during the Atascadero Library’s first anniversary celebration Saturday.

The event, which is free and open to the public, includes several festivities from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with the unveiling of the Radiant Reading Oak art piece at 11:30 a.m.

Birkhahn was commissioned to create a sculpture that children can read beneath at the Captain's Family Corner at the library’s new location on Capistrano Avenue.

“As a child, I often had a picture in my mind of the ideal place to read being under a tree. It inspires a calming place for children to read or be read to,” Birkhahn said. “That was my goal. It is so special.”

The overall piece is made of felt, foam and lightweight balsa wood and features a hand-dyed trunk that fades in the color spectrum from purple to turquoise in a pattern inspired by valley oak bark. The branches also have hand-sewn elements. The felted leaves are grouped to shift in color through magenta, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, Birkhahn said.

The tree took more than 60 hours to create, which roughly spanned over six months when Birkhahn had time to work on it.

In January, The Tribune featured the beginnings of Birkhahn’s project when she invited local kids to her downtown art studio to help create the felted leaves for the oak’s lush treetop.

Children paired tufts of colorful, wispy wool fibers with soapy water and olive oil in leaf-shaped cookie cutters to create the dozens of the tiny sculptures that Birkhahn later added to the tree.

The library re-opened at its current location last year after volunteers raised money to find a larger, more technology-focused space and moved the facility from its longtime location on Morro Road. The library’s name also changed from the Atascadero-Martin Polin Library to the Atascadero Library, with the Martin Polin namesake still honored in the title of the new library’s community room, according to the Friends of Atascadero Library.

Martin Polin, a San Luis Obispo attorney and developer, donated the land that the previous library was built on in 1988.

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