Plans to commemorate Joplin Spirit Tree moving forward

JOPLIN, Mo. – There’s a lot of memorials in Joplin, each with a great purpose — remembering the lives lost during the 2011 tornado. But none of them are quite like the Spirit Tree.

“It’s got different levels ranging from inspiration, love, or moving forward,” explains Joplin resident Doug Hunt.

The Spirit Tree was a tree on 20th street that was left standing after the tornado, which was painted by local artists in 2012. Then, in 2018, the tree fell. But that’s not the end of the story for the symbol of strength and hope.

“The idea is to have the sculpture art, the new spirit tree sculpture, look as identical as possible as the actual tree, but to scale it up,” explains Hunt.

Hunt explains that that dream was started shortly after the tree fell in 2018, and a lot was done to fulfill it in a short amount of time. A location, at the corner of 20th and Murphy, and an artist was found. The next step was starting a fundraising campaign.

“And then the pandemic hit. And that coupled with the fact that the capitol campaign was underway for the Cornell Center… it’s not that the project was put on hold, efforts to move it along were put on hold,” explains Hunt.

But the project is no longer on hold. Hunt and other members of the community helping with the project are working to start a 501c3 organization, so that a fundraising campaign can kick off at the beginning of 2022.

“And then by that time get to the point where we can sit down with Jorge Leyva our artist, and coming up with a concrete plan on getting this done,” says Hunt.

So even though it’s been a few years since the tree fell, the vision will move forward so that the spirit of the tree can live on.

“The spirit tree was such a visual impact of inspiration during the one walk on the one year anniversary that I don’t want to lose that for our citizens,” says Hunt. “I want our kids and grandkids to look at that and to hear the story about how we came out of this darkness.”

Hunt says he’s not sure how much the statue will cost, especially with how expensive construction materials are right now. But, he hopes to have the project done well before the 15 year anniversary.