Trees saved from chainsaw turned into art on Lake Shore Drive

CHICAGO -- Dozens of trees lining Chicago's Lake Shore Drive were slated to be cut down because they were dying from the Emerald Ash Borer. That's until someone came up with the idea of salvaging the trees by transforming them into works of art.

Artist Samantha Rusch has been working on one tree she showed WGN for nearly eight months. This tree, like so many others was slated to be chopped down, until it was salvaged through the Chicago Tree Project.

"If we weren't turning them into art, they would be cut down so this gives the trees a few more years of life and puts art in the community," said Tess Landon, Chicago Tree Project.

By the end of summer, there will be nearly 40 trees in Chicago parks and along Lake Shore Drive that have been transformed into art work.

"It's really an outdoor museum that can be accessed anytime," Landon said.

Artists were handpicked by Chicago Sculpture International, who wanted the trees to represent an array of different styles and messages.

"We're not looking for a common theme. We're looking for what they're doing with the tree that will make their work shine and have an interaction with the public too," said Janet Austin, Chicago Sculpture International.

Rausch spends a bit of each day talking with people who come up and ask her about her blue and white masterpiece.

"So it's my design weaving in and out throughout all the branches going up," Rausch said.

Her passion coming through each nook and crevice, weaving together not just art but a story of beauty in something once labeled dead.

"Talks a combination of the cycles of life, how we're all interacting no matter what phases of our life we're at," she said.

The website chicagotreeproject.org has a map showing all their locations along the lakefront, along with an app that gives you an audio tour with each artists describing their vision for each tree. There are currently 10 being actively worked on this summer.