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.
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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."