News / Arts & Entertainment

Toy Christmas Tree Keeps on Giving

Toy Christmas Tree Keeps on Givingi
X
December 20, 2013 1:27 PM
The Christmas tree, one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday, is almost everywhere during the Christmas season: in homes, on front lawns, even in public spaces in America’s cities. A nine-meter-tall tree stands in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside the nation’s capital. But as Faiza Elmasry tells us in this story narrated by Faith Lapidus, this is not a traditional Christmas tree.
TEXT SIZE - +
Faiza Elmasry
— A nine-meter-tall holiday tree stands in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside the nation’s capital, but it's not a traditional Christmas tree.

The colorful, cone-shaped exhibit is made out of toys -- hundreds of them: sports balls, rackets, kid-size chairs and tables, xylophones, sleds, coin banks, plastic brooms, bats, Frisbees and more.

The towering collection grabs the attention of passersby like Shelaney Campbell and Lauren Fleming, who live and work in the area.

“It stands out," Campbell said. "I can’t help looking at it every time I pass by it. You know it’s an interesting concept, to make a tree out of toys."

“I think that downtown Silver Spring has its own character," Fleming said. "And so putting this type of tree downtown really makes sense for the area. This tree probably is kind of a better fit than the traditional tree.”

Suzan Jenkins, who heads the county’s Arts and Humanities Council, agrees.

“I love the top of it," she said. "It’s so whimsical, playful, beautiful. It doesn’t matter where you come from, this tree makes you smile.”

In collaboration with the Silver Spring business community, the council issued a challenge for artists to come up with a non-traditional concept for a Christmas tree. The design by Karl Unnasch was an instant winner.

“His vision just was perfect for what we were hoping to accomplish," Jenkins said, "being able to put together these found objects that all related to playtime, fun and all the things that people love about the holidays, his vision made this really stand out.”

Unnasch is an architectural artist and he wanted to create something extremely colorful.

“I also was interested in actually taking the toys that you usually see under the holiday tree and make the tree out of the toys themselves,” he said.

Constructing the installation he calls “Playtime Jubilee” took two months, a process he found both fun and challenging.

“The biggest challenge was actually the math," Unnasch said. "I’m trying to cover a huge cone shape, a three-dimensional cone shape, so I have to make sure my math was right. The next challenge was selection of the items because I didn’t want it to be a mass of things that didn’t work well with each other visiually.”

Christmas marks the birth of Jesus, and Christians continue the gift-giving tradition to celebrate what they believe is God's gift of forgiveness to mankind.

Laurie Yankowsk of the Peterson Cos., which manages Downtown Silver Spring, says what she likes most about the tree is how it embodies that spirit of generosity.

“Most of the items that you see on the tree are either found objects that the artist himself and his wonderful volunteers found throughout the country, as well as some of the items were donated," Yankowski said. "At the end of the holiday, all the items will be donated to less fortunate families.”

A Wider Circle, a local non-profit that works to end poverty, will distribute the toys after the tree is dismantled on January 4. The organization’s founder, Mark Bergel, says it reflects his group’s philosophy:

“I like this tree most because it’s really metaphoric for what we do in that nothing ever goes to waste," Bergel said. "We can recycle and redistribute. Most Christmas trees after December 26th have no life. This Christmas tree will have lots of life. It will create memories for people in their entire life in fact.”

 Silver Spring’s non-traditional Christmas tree, a tree that keeps on giving, could be the start of a new tradition.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Melissa Salmon from: Schenectady NY
December 23, 2013 11:25 AM
I think what would make this even better is if the toys used to make up the tree were disassembled and given to children who could really benefit by a present to keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.