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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Acclaimed jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller has made a name for herself appearing with such high-profile artists as Beyonce, Esperanza Spalding, and Terri Lyne Carrington. Tia and her quartet performed music from her CD “Angelic Warrior” on our latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."