As we first reported yesterday, the fabled graffiti tree at Queen West and Peter, also known as the “Hug Me” tree, fell over ending its near decade-long reign as a local landmark. But there has been a handful of developments in the last 24 hours.
With the help of Devon Ostrom of the urban arts collective THEM, the graffiti artist responsible for re-painting it over the years, known as Elicser, contacted the City to say he wanted to take possession of the tree. Last evening, he painted a crime-scene outline around the tree and repainted the trunk to memorialize its last stand (“Hug Me RIP” and Xs over the eyes of the tree’s character were added). He lit candles and held vigil over it late into the night. Passersby stopped to tell him stories about their experience with the tree.
Meanwhile, the City’s Forestry department sent out a crew this morning to collect the tree. They showed up and began the process of cutting it up (with a chainsaw) to be taken away and chipped. A number of people gathered around the tree and stopped any further cutting until Elicser arrived. The only pieces cut off were the rotted roots (which even the artist is grateful for since it now can stand flat on the ground).
A resident who lived nearby offered up her pickup truck for transport. Elicser and a small crew of friends arranged to have it stored at a studio in the Queen West and Dufferin area. Within 30 minutes, the tree had a new home, albeit indoors.
One of the charming sidebars to this story is the owner of the pickup truck (pictured below left, with Elicser, right). She felt a personal connection to the tree and wanted to see it preserved in some way. Why? Because her husband had proposed to her in front of the tree six years ago. They also stood in front of it when they learned from their doctor the sex of their son Duke, now 5 years old (also pictured below). Duke was on hand for the transport of the tree — acting as the defacto foreman — and claimed to hug it each and every time he passed it.
Elicser has asked us to help him collect stories related to the tree. You can either leave them here on this post, or you can email them to email@example.com.
All photos by Matthew Blackett