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Utilization Initiatives in Art, Architecture, and Design

Urban Wood builds a discourse upon the material and cultural enterprise of wood. From urban forestry to forest products, wood is ever present in contemporary debates about the ecology and construction of urban environments. In this lecture series, wood practitioners share opportunities for use, reuse, and reclamation of local forest products, centering trees and the vitality of urban landscapes in a discussion on urban forestry and wood utilization initiatives in art, architecture, and design.

December 3, 2021 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm (CST)


Dwayne Sperber Urban Wood Network / Wudeward

Robert Ross, PhD Forest Products Laboratory USFS Madison, Wi

Sarah Hines USFS / Baltimore Wood Project / Urban Wood Academy

Stephen Lane and Jim Semelka Graf Tree Care / Illinois Urban Wood 

Sean Shaffer and Mike Dimitroff Chicago Park District / Nature Play Specialist

Meegan Czop Great Lakes Yard

Serena JV Elston Digital Architectural Design / Althing Cabin

Raul De Lara Wood-based Artist NYC

Paul Pettigrew Architect/Designer MIT

Woodworking in the 21st Century SAIC Students  / Jeff Prokash (Faculty)

Urban Wood Press release image crosscut of tree stump  with bug holes and butterfly joints
SAIC Logo.png


1:00-1:30  SAIC Woodworking in the 21st Century Student Presentations  

                  Jayme Fiedler, Noam Nayberg, Madeleine Aguilar, Satori Ishihara, Garrett Cruzan

1:30-1:45   Serena JV Elston 

1:45-2:05   Raul De Lara   

2:05-2:30   Robert Ross, PhD

2:30-2:50   Paul Pettigrew  

2:50-3:10   Meegan Czop 

3:15-3:40   Sarah Hines 

3:40-4:05   Sean Shaffer & Mike Dimitroff

4:05-4:30   Dwayne Sperber 

4:30-4:55   Stephen Lane and and Jim Semelka

Dwayne Sperber Urban Wood Network / Wudeward Urban Forest Products

Dwayne Sperber has dedicated himself to building the urban wood industry. For nearly 20 years he has advised on the vast potential of this renewable resource. Dwayne is called on to provide urban wood utilization guidance and products for leaders across sectors including municipalities, academia, arborists, design professionals, manufacturers, and suppliers. Dwayne is an appointed member of the Wisconsin Urban Forestry Council, and founding member and advisor of the Urban Wood Network.

Dwayne is the founder and owner of Wudeward Urban Forest Products, a purpose-driven producer and supplier of urban lumber, architectural woodwork, veneer products, and furnishings.  

Dwayne Sperber

Wudeward Urban Forest Products (Wudeward is pronounced “Wood-word”)

N11 W31868 Phyllis Parkway

Delafield, WI 53018


Robert Ross, PhD Project Leader Forest Products Lab 

Bob Ross has served as Project Leader for several research work units at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) since 1988. In addition to his assignment at FPL, he is a Research Professor at Michigan Technological University.  His current research focus is on the development and use of nondestructive evaluation technologies for various wood products and structures, from standing trees to historic buildings and ships. He has written or co-authored more than 250 technical reports and articles about nondestructive evaluation and jointly holds several U.S. and foreign patents. He served as team leader and editor of the Centennial Edition of Wood Handbook—Wood as an Engineering Material, FPL’s flagship publication, and has been the lead or contributed to several widely used reference documents including Marks’ Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers,  Nondestructive Evaluation of Wood, Undervalued Hardwoods for Engineered Materials and Components,  Wood and Timber Condition Assessment Manual, and Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation of Wood—50 Years of Research—International Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation of Wood Symposium Series.


He has been formally recognized for his technical accomplishments, publications, and professional service by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, Forest Products Society, Michigan Technological University, U.S. Forest Service, Society for Experimental Mechanics, Society of Wood Science and Technology, and USDA.  He has received recognition from The Arc Dane County, U.S. Forest Service, Greater Madison Federal Agency Association, Madison Area Rehabilitation Centers, and USDA (President’s Volunteer Service Award) for his community service.  


He is a member of the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences’ (Michigan Technological University) Honor Academy, holds adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Minnesota Duluth, Beijing Forestry University, Northeast Forestry University (Harbin, China), and Mississippi State University. He currently serves as Co-Chair of the International Nondestructive Testing and Evaluation of Wood Symposium Series. He holds BS (Wood and Fiber Utilization) and MS (Engineering Mechanics) degrees from Michigan Technological University and a PhD in Engineering Science from Washington State University.

Sarah Hines Science Delivery Specialist Baltimore Field Station 

Sarah Hines serves as a coordinator and project manager among the network of Urban Field Stations within the USDA Forest Service, working with diverse communities to develop and advance knowledge and practical solutions to interrelated ecological, social, and economic issues and challenges.  Sarah has spent her career in the Forest Service linking research with practice at local and regional scales to inform holistic stewardship of natural infrastructure and communities, ranging in scale from National Forests to the local parks and forests in our communities.  She received an A.B. in biological anthropology from Harvard, and M.S. and M.B.A. degrees from the University of Michigan. 

Stephen Lane Graf Tree Care / Illinois Urban Wood / Illinois Wood Utilization Team

Steve Lane is an urban forestry consultant, ecologist, and a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyst with Graf Tree Care, Inc., who specializes in creative use of GIS technology and its use in improving the urban forest and the urban ecosystem overall. He holds a BS from the University of Oregon, where he double-majored in Environmental Science and Geography. Steve has extensive experience in urban forestry management planning, tree inventory, wetland science, GIS, tree planting plans, and urban tree canopy assessments.

Sean Shaffer Nature Engagement Specialist for the Chicago Park District

Sean Shaffer has been working in Informal Education for over 28 years at Kohl Children's Museum, the Chicago Academy of Sciences, and the Shedd Aquarium, and 17 years at North Park Village Nature Center. He is currently the Nature Engagement for the Chicago Park District, working with communities across the city to design Nature Play Spaces in their parks.  Sean works with play experts, kids, to design small scale models, drawing and full-size models of their ideal nature play spaces with fun elements like bridges, river monsters and limestone rivers as well as loose parts for the players to build to the limits of their imaginations.  In addition Sean promotes nature play across the city through trainings, pop up play events, tool workshops and the 2021 Fairy House project.

Michael Dimitroff Manager of Art Initiatives / Department of Cultural and Natural Resources / Chicago Park District

Michael Dimitroff is currently the Manager of Art Initiatives for the Chicago Park District within the Department of Cultural and Natural Resources. He manages and coordinates city-wide public art initiatives and monumental sculpture installations. He sits on the Park Enhancement Committee in reviewing proposals for park enhancements and artwork. Michael has served in this role for the past seven years, having formerly served two years as project manager for the Park District’s, Office of Green Initiatives. During that time Michael represented the Park District as one of the original members of the 2014 Wood Utilization Team, which was led by the Director of Environmental Initiatives in the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. 

Michael also manages the Park District’s biodiesel fueling agreements, program and initiatives out of the CPD’s 39th St. facility. He continues to be very active, across departments, with sustainability efforts and initiatives district-wide. 

He has fifteen years’ experience as a CPS Career and Technical Education Teacher and Department Head, serving Chicago’s West Side youth as a carpentry and construction technology instructor. Michael has eighteen years prior experience as a carpenter-builder with strong connections to Chicago artists and sculptors. 

He holds a BS degree from the University of Michigan in Natural Resources, with a concentration in fisheries biology and attended DePaul University for post-baccalaureate coursework in secondary education. 

Meegan Czop Great Lakes Yard 

Creator and owner of Chicago’s Great Lakes Yard, Meegan has developed a unique business where she can serve people who share her passion for restoration, architectural salvage and the heritage lumber of the Great Lakes Region. Meegan’s educational background includes a BFA and she applies the critical and creative lens of an artist to all she does.

Meegan’s professional history ranges from masonry restoration, hospitality, building sets and props for the Oprah Winfrey Show, to the Director of Business Development for the nonprofit Rebuilding Exchange. There she spent 6 years developing and growing the organization into a successful, nationally recognized brand that involved a job training program, a furniture line, and a retail warehouse.

Meegan recognizes the value of the skilled craftsmanship of the past and strives to divert these valuable building materials from landfills in the rustbelt region. Tapping into her experiences in both consulting and sales, Meegan has built successful relationships which allow her to connect high quality reclaimed materials to individual and commercial clients.

​Serena JV Elston Digital Architectural Design / Althing Cabin

Serena received a BFA in Architecture and Sculpture from MassArt. She is a candidate for an MFA in Sculpture from The School of the Art Insitute of Chicago.

Raul De Lara Wood-Based Artist (New York City)

(b. 1991 – Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mex.) 

Raul De Lara immigrated from Mexico to the United States at the age of 12, and has been a DACA recipient since 2012. Growing up in Texas as a non-English speaker, feeling neither from here nor there, his work now reflects on ideas of nationality, language barriers, body language and the sense of touch. De Lara often works with wood, a material that always shows the passing of time on its skin. His aesthetics and materials are inspired by the shared backyard between the United States and Mexico.


De Lara received his MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been awarded the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Residency, Queens New Arts Grant, New York City Arts Corps Grant, the Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship in Provincetown, Ox-Bow School of Art Fellowship, a Chicago Artists Coalition HATCH Residency, and the International Sculpture Center Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. He is currently based in New York City.

Paul Pettigrew Architect / Designer MIT

Paul Pettigrew received his Architecture BS from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and his MArch from MIT. He has worked for Perkins & Will, Crate & Barrel and in private practice. He was a Studio Associate Professor and Curator of the first-year design studios at the Illinois Institute of Technology School of Architecture. Between 2006-2016 he has taught functional object design & fabrication with a particular interest in urban wood and the relationship between local & global. His private practice work and the work of his functional-object-fabricating students has been described in numerous publications. Paul is currently the Coordinator of Undergraduate Initiatives & Manager of Special Projects in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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