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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
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 Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied 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 at the Union League Club 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.

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."