The Tree of Wisdom, originally built in 1975, moved earlier this spring to its third location between the Joseph Smith and Brimhall buildings, which will sculpture’s permanent home.
BYU chose the new location for a variety of reasons, including opening up the quad south of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower to make room for traffic, as well as campus activities.
Todd Hollingshead, BYU media relations manager, addressed the reasons behind the move.
“This allows for a little bit more green space there, which helps make the quad a little easier to use for campus activities,” Hollingshead said. “We also believe the new location for the Tree of Wisdom will allow the students a better chance to enjoy it as it is positioned closer to areas of high student traffic.”
The quad in between the Brimhall, Joseph Smith and the David O. McKay buildings now house the newly rebuilt sculpture.
Natalie Nysetvold, a member of the student-run website for the BYU community called the 100 Hour Board, offered her interpretation of the new location.
“It makes sense given the tight LDS connection between wisdom and religion (and) the idea that wisdom can only truly come from God,” Nysetvold said.
Nysetvold also shared in an email her personal impressions when she viewed the tree.
“It actually kind of reminds me of an onion because of the different layers of the statue,” Nysetvold said. “Given that it’s about wisdom, I guess the multi-planed nature makes sense. We progress from one level of wisdom to the next, each new thing we learn building onto the last.”
Nysetvold also hopes that people will ponder the meaning of the Tree of Wisdom.
“I’d be interested to see students give a few moments of thought to the meaning of the sculpture,” Nysetvold said. “It’s easy to just write if off since it is a little abstract, but thinking about it can lead to interesting insights.”
Sculptor and designer Frank Nackos intended for the sculpture to symbolize knowledge gained during and after the BYU experience. Nackos explained that some people interpret the statue as a fancy “Y,” but that was never the original purpose. The Tree of Wisdom symbolizes the duality of the root and branch system of the tree, Nackos explains.
“It’s an abstraction of those ideas,” Nackos said. “So for one view of the sculpture you see it branching down and out like a root system, at the school you are supposed to be gaining knowledge and roots and the knowledge being able to be offered by the university.”
Nackos said the branch system symbolizes what students do after their BYU experience and education.
“The other part is that we are supposed to grow out, branch out, bear fruit and go forth to serve,” Nackos said.
Hollingshead shared his insights on the legacy of the Tree of Wisdom.
“The Tree of Wisdom, like other sculptures and statues at BYU, adds to the legacy of campus and is something people will surely remember and can revisit each time they come to the university,” Hollingshead said.