TRUMBULL — Trinity Episcopal Church, Nichols in Trumbull has a new Welcome sign.

The cross, dove, lamb, sunflowers and bunny were carved from a maple tree near the church on Huntington Turnpike by self-taught chainsaw artist Jared Welcome. And it’s designed to last as long — at least — as the tree itself.

“It’s still rooted in the ground, and it should last a good long time,” said Welcome, who recently completed the work. “It’s something for everyone in the community to enjoy.”

Welcome said he spent about two weeks transforming a giant maple tree on the church’s front lawn into the 8-foot work of art. The tree was more dead than alive and had become a danger to the nearby power lines.

“After UI said it had to go, we began looking at the cost to remove it,” said the Rev. Alan Murchie, Trinity’s pastor. “But when we looked at what it would cost to remove it, it really didn’t cost any more to create a work of art.”

While the dove and lamb carry religious meanings, the bunny, pays tribute to the Nichols bunny fountain that sits just a few hundred feet away. Originally placed on the Nichols Green, the fountain was moved in 1931 after being hit by a car.

“It’s sort of the symbol of Nichols, and we want this to be something that welcomes people into the community of Nichols,” said Murchie. If the sculpture was intended as a community welcome, the residents have already embraced it, he said.

“Originally, it was going to be the cross with a phoenix bird,” Murchie said. Trinity dates back 175 years, but the current building was completed in 1970 after a fire destroyed the original. The parish has since adopted the phoenix, a mythical bird that rises from its own ashes, as its symbol.

The plan had to be scrapped when Welcome began the laborious task of cutting and removing 20-inch chunks of maple. That was when he realized that what everyone thought was an ancient tree was actually two trees grown together.

“Over the decades they grew together,” Welcome said.

While it is not known how old the tree was, Welcome said he found tacks and nails three inches deep in the trunk.

“Someone, years ago, nailed a sign to the tree, and then they took the sign down but left the nails and the tree grew around them,” he said. “If you hit one of those with your chainsaw, it’s time for a new chain. But I don’t mind because it shows just how long this has been part of the community.”

A close look at the work reveals a surprising level of detail. From the textured lambskin to the dozens of individual petals, the details are both decorative and functional, he said.

“If you look at the surfaces, none of them are exactly level,” Welcome said. “Because this is New England and it’s outside, there’s going to be snow on it, it’s going to get rained on. All of the grooves and surfaces channel water off it.”

The sculpture also is designed so that everything at eye-level to a small child is textured.

“When kids see something, they immediately want to touch it,” he said. “It’s part of how they learn.”

Learning is something Welcome also is familiar with. When not wielding a chainsaw, he works as a job skills teacher in the state’s Department of Corrections. There, too, his creative side comes in handy, he said.

“A lot of the guys I work with, they’ve done graffiti,” Welcome said. “It’s a different kind of art, but when I show them pictures of what I’ve done, we respect each other’s art. They can really start to open up. It’s a way to reach them at another level.”

deng@trumbulltimes.com