Second, massive artwork being made of beloved, 300-year-old Ottawa tree

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Peter Simpson, Ottawa Citizen

David Fels is resurrecting a second chunk of the once-mighty Brighton Beach Oak.

Fels, an Ottawa artist, has already turned one piece of the 300-year-old tree into a large, flowing sculpture at Carleton University. That piece, titled Sailing Through Time, was installed in the foyer of the River Building at the university last year.

On Thursday, Fels began carving a second piece of the tree, which stood for three centuries in Old Ottawa South and was beloved by the neighbourhood. The tree, dying and rotted inside, was cut down by city crews two years ago. Fels was on site Thursday morning when another city crew delivered a 14-foot chunk of the oak.

Only moments after a crane put the block in place, in a sheltered alcove behind the Architectural Building, Fels was hacking off the bark with an axe. He says the 4,000-pound piece of oak trunk will weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds when he's carved away the negative bits.

He says the work will take "about two to three months, depending on what I find in there, because every tree is different." He'll be working on it on campus seven days a week, using an electric chainsaw to reduce the bulk to a thing that flows gracefully, much like Sailing Through Time does.

"I draw on the tree, and then I carve down to the sculpture," he says. "It's almost like modelling clay . . . You can actually pull and push and shape the piece as a unit, as a whole."

Both of Fels' projects from the Brighton Beach Oak were organized by Larry McCloskey, director of the Paul Menton Centre for Students with Disabilities, which is in the River Building. McCloskey says the new sculpture will be installed for eight months at the Ottawa Convention Centre, in time for the 2014 International Summit on Accessibility. Then it would be moved to its permanent home in a second-floor atrium of the River Building.

Watch the Big Beat for more as the project takes shape . . .