IIT Seeks Urban Wood Donations for Traveling Exhibit

The Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) needs wood – preferably sourced from Illinois’ extensive urban forest – for its upcoming Architecture & Furniture courses scheduled for this Summer and Fall and Spring 2016. Each course will culminate with the students’ works displayed in a public exhibition to educate kids and adults about the benefits of value-added urban wood.


The greatest urgency is finding a supply of lumber for the summer course, said IIT Associate Professor Paul Pettigrew. He has taught IIT students about the design and fabrication of custom furniture since 2006. “Ideally we would have the wood at the beginning of each semester,” Pettigrew said. Although that translates to a June 9 deadline for the summer session, Pettigrew said he would be open to receiving a lumber donation later than that.


The 2013 “Out of the Woods’ exhibition featured 50 student works crafted from storm-damaged oak trees.

Pettigrew has been an avid supporter of using of urban wood for his classroom projects. One of his Architecture & Furniture program’s most celebrated urban wood projects, “Out of the Woods,” repurposed lumber salvaged from some of the nearly 200 oak trees damaged by a brutal July 2012 storm at Reed-Keppler Park in West Chicago, IL. Some 50 student pieces of furniture and art were showcased the following summer at West Chicago’s Railroad Days festival. The pieces were sold and raffled to raise money for the park and The Conservation Fund.

Pettigrew said he is looking to build on the previous successful collaboration in West Chicago.

“It is possible that all three project themes will be working around an idea that was given to me by a museum director in West Chicago,” Pettigrew said. “We will be attempting to put together a traveling exhibition of work that helps to explain what urban wood is and why it is or should be important to people of all ages, whether they live in a city, suburb, rural community, country or otherwise.

“The exhibit will include graphics to discuss all aspects of urban wood use, financial aspects of urban wood use, etc. The exhibition will also include educational components for kids ranging in age from pre-school through high school. The educational  components are intended to allow teachers from local communities to the museum exhibitions to bring their kids in for a visit and have their kids take back to school with them ‘homework’ that can be applied to a range of classes including science, technology, engineering and math – in other words S.T.E.M. fields as well as the arts.”

While Pettigrew called the museum exhibition the “big idea/event,” he added, “we would be more than happy to display our work in and around the communities from wherever the wood comes from.”

Urban Wood Wish List
Pettigrew said he requires at least one board per student. Each of the boards would ideally be 1-1/4-inch or thicker, be a least 6 feet long and range between 9 inches and 12 inches wide. Pettigrew said he would accept any hardwood species of urban wood.

“While I have an ideal board dimension in mind, at the end of the day we will take whatever people are willing to give us,” Pettigrew said.

In addition to the June 9 deadline for summer, Pettigrew hopes to receive urban wood for the Fall by Sept. 1 and for Spring 2016 by Jan. 17, 2016. He added that he has no problem arranging to pick up a load of wood.

Lumber suppliers interested in making an urban wood donation to the IIT Furniture & Architecture program should contact Pettigrew at pettigrew@iit.edu or 773-294-1475.