Chainsaw artist James Lukinich

Carving of the second story pole in front of the Keizer Civic Center is set to commence next week and, this time around, a McNary High School graduate is returning home to show off his skills.

Chainsaw artist James Lukinich plans to start work on the second story pole Monday, July 27. On the first day, most of his work will be setting up scaffolding and debarking the tree, but carving is expected to begin in earnest on Tuesday, July, 28. 

The second pole is meant to complement the existing story pole on the site with depictions of Keizer’s history as an agricultural area. Rocks, iris, strawberries, a hazelnut orchard, hops, blueberries, a farmer plowing soil, a beaver lodge and dam and a spiraling representation of the river are all potential elements. At the top will be a rendition of the Wallace House, the first white settlement in the area. Lukinich is free to interpret the slate of items however he wishes. Working by himself, he expects the whole project to take 8-10 days.

“I definitely want to spend a lot of time on the details because it’s going to be highly visible,” he said. 

Spectators are welcome to watch as Lukinich works but must maintain physical distancing and wear masks. Free masks are available inside the Keizer Civic Center, 930 Chemawa Road N.E.

Lukinich found out about the project when Kevin and Tyler Strauslin of Oregon 3D Art and Chainsaw Sculpture had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts. The Strauslins carved the first pole last summer and are connected with Lukinich on the carving circuit. 

“It’s sort of cool how it all came back around,” said Lukinich, a 1987 graduate of McNary.

Lukinich left Oregon for Alaska shortly after graduating and began working as an arborist. Almost immediately, he began carving in his spare time.

“There was never a shortage of chainsaws or trees,” he said. 

Lukinich and his wife turned it into his full-time job about five years ago. 

The cost of the carving is $10,000 and funding was raised by the Keizer Public Arts Commission. The Keizer Community Foundation donated $5,000 to the effort, $2,000 was provided by a grant from the Marion County Development Corporation and the final $3,000 was provided by the Rotary Club of Keizer through sponsorship by Wayne Thackery and John Blake.