Matt Burke has had to rethink his project in Castlewood Park after two instances that could be considered disasters.
But before committing to do the project a third time, Burke said he had to ask himself whether he could muster the energy to move forward.
Undeterred by wind and, most recently, fire, the Kansas-based artist says he will finish what he started.
"It's important to the community," he said. "I didn't want to leave without having built a piece."
The 70-foot outdoor sculpture called Nexus: Toward New Land Art being created in front of Lexington Art League's Loudoun House was supposed to be completed in August. But that's when a giant bur oak snapped and fell on part of the sculpture.
Burke, who teaches at the University of Kansas, had to return home without finishing the work because classes resumed. He returned earlier this week to begin work on a new idea that tied the downed tree to the sculpture.
Then, at about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Burke received a message that the sculpture had been destroyed by fire.
Garry Maynard, 50, is charged with third-degree arson, third-degree criminal trespassing and alcohol intoxication, according to jail officials and police.
Maynard, who police reports indicate is homeless, told police he set the wooden structure on fire Wednesday because he was trying to stay warm, Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said. Burned grass marked the spot where the largest section of the sculpture stood.
Maynard, who has a lengthy criminal history, including charges of alcohol intoxication, begging and criminal trespassing, was being held at the Fayette County jail on Wednesday.
"I was disappointed at first," Burke said. "I felt badly for (Maynard) ultimately."
But Burke immediately started thinking about how to complete his work, bouncing his ideas off of relatives.
Andrea Coates, marketing director for the art league, praised Burke for his "wonderful spirit" while attempting to complete the sculpture. Coates said there is always a risk in creating public art.
"There's a risk you take, especially with it being wood," she said.
Burke received a $2,000 stipend from the art league for the project and a matching project grant from LexArts. He has not needed additional money or materials to complete the project, said Becky Alley, exhibition and program director for the art league.
Burke's new vision is to create an upright tunnel, about 12 feet high, over the oak. People in the community will be able to have a seat inside the stump of the tree and look up toward the sky. A wooden tendril will be connected to the tunnel and come down to snake around the tree.
It will be a place where people can "sit and reflect," he said.
The project even has a new name: Nexus: Toward New Land Art, a thinking tower.
By Wednesday afternoon, Burke, with help from his father, who was visiting from Connecticut, and other volunteers, began working to finish the project. It is expected to be completed by Friday or Saturday.
Burke said he did not have any worries.
When people see something interesting or beautiful "they respond to it and it earns their respect," he said.
Burke's determination is appreciated.
"It's been shocking, especially two in a row" Alley said. "But they just want to keep going."