Under the supervision of Willow Artist Bonnie Gale, volunteers from
across Baltimore and Maryland came together this week to help
construct the Pierce’s Park Willow Tunnel. The Willow Tunnel is an
elaborately woven living structure of willow under which children can
run and play.
Bonnie Gale considers creating these kinds of living willow
installations to be her artistic passion, and developed a unique
design and weaving pattern for the Pierce’s Park project. She says, “I
create beauty. The reason that this is so incredible what I do – is
because I’m not really doing it, it’s as if the creative forces are
coming through me. It’s incredibly exciting.”
She says of working on this project, “It’s wonderful. This is truly a
community project. I had a lot of help…. I think it’s very vested
already in the community. It’s a project that’s very visible. People
have been coming by to ask about it, children have been coming up
asking to see it. It’s very exciting and the structure will be
The willow sprigs are harvested at the start of spring, and then
frozen during the summer. When Bonnie brings them out to be planted,
there’s little time to waste in making sure they’ll be properly
planted and woven as they’ll start to sprout and grow very quickly.
Throughout the week, different groups of volunteers and families came
to help pitch in with the planting and weaving. Special thanks goes to
Tom Lopezzo, Melissa Jenks, Qiaojue Yu, the volunteers from Lutheran
Immigration Services, Morgan Stanley, Waterfront Partnership, Flanigan
and Hiller families, and many other friends and members of our
community for their hard work.
As the week progressed, the team grew concerned about the impending
arrival of Hurricane Irene. Would the installation be finished in
time? Would the hurricane damage the freshly planted willow branches?
A light plant was brought in as the team worked until midnight the
night before Irene was due to arrive.
As night turned to day, more volunteers and Bill Beall’s crew worked
quickly to fully stabilize the structure and protect it as well as
possible from the wind and rain of Hurricane Irene.
After a night of intense rain and wind, the Willow Tunnel was
inspected and found to have sustained no damage. Bonnie’s design and
the hard work of volunteers and the P. Flanigan crew had fully paid
off: this Willow Tunnel is here to stay.
photography by Jed Kirschbaum, Thomas Flanigan, and Jim Coudon