Feb. 18, 2020 | For 10 years, Penny Talbert has been trying to get something to grow in a certain spot along the circle drive at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
“I finally realized that the area was too shaded and too windy for anything to thrive in that spot,” the landscape manager said. “What we needed was a sculpture.”
But sculptures don’t grow on trees. They cost money, and Talbert didn’t have the funds in her landscaping budget.
What she did have was reclaimed materials. As UAMS demolished homes along Pine and Cedar streets to make way for a much-needed power plant, Talbert and her staff saved the wrought iron from the houses’ porches.
“I thought we could use the wrought iron to make a sculpture. It seemed like a great way to fill a need I had on the campus and honor the neighborhood around UAMS,” she said.
Talbert approached Christina Clark, vice chancellor for Institutional Support Services and chief operating officer, with the idea, and quickly received the go ahead. Talbert, welder Eric Hale and landscape technician Kenneth Bailey worked on the project after hours in the sub-basement.
“At first, they thought I was completely crazy,” Talbert said with a laugh. “And after the first few days, I agreed with them. It was a hot mess.”
But with a little time and a lot of work, the sculpture came together.
“I had never done something like this before,” Talbert said. “But I had a vision in my head that this could be something truly special. I’m really grateful to Eric and Kenneth because I couldn’t have done this on my own.”
Now, an iron tree that shows off the talent and creativity of Team UAMS greets patients pulling up to the Cancer Institute. Soon, rocks from the Pine and Cedar houses will surround the sculpture, including one bearing a plaque that reads, “Integrating our past into plans for the future.”
“I am amazed at what Penny and her team were able to create,” said Clark. “It just goes to show that our amazing employees can really do anything they put their minds to.”