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Local artist spreads joy with Playtime Jubilee


Fri, Dec 6th, 2013
Posted in Chatfield Features

Local sculptor and artist Karl Unnasch created the “holiday tree” above. Photo by Karl Unnasch

Local artist Karl Unnasch has completed a sculpture that is spreading joy to the City of Silver Spring, Md., the Washington D.C. area, the Fillmore County area, and perhaps the world.

The sculpture, which is titled Playtime Jubilee, began as only a vision when Unnasch sent in a proposal for the project which was commissioned by The Peterson Companies and the Art and Humanities Council of Montgomery County to create a non-traditional sculptural “holiday tree” using new and slightly used outdoor-friendly toys and sporting goods. The vision Unnasch provided was so impressive that it was chosen as the winning proposal.

Unnasch spent three months accumulating items to be used for the sculpture from various places including Craigslist and auctions, some donated items, and Unnasch stated he even did some shopping himself in order to have all of the pieces he needed to complete the project.

Some of the items used to create Playtime Jubilee include 58 disk sleds, various sports balls, rackets, chairs and stools, helmets, xylophones, and many others.

Gathering all of the necessary supplies in a U-Haul Unnasch drove to Silver Spring and began to create the 35 foot-tall and 16 foot-diameter “holiday tree” he had envisioned which is located at the Veteran’s Plaza in Silver Spring.

Unnasch stated, “It took one solid week of 10 to 12 hour days to get it up in the sky.” Karl had help from his “able-bodied elves” as he likes to call them, which included his partner Nicole Huss and two assistants who were provided. The result is a towering sculpture made up of various shaped objects in many bright colors. There is so much to look at and absorb that it is hard for a viewer to know what to focus on first and in what direction to move your eyes in order to not miss anything.

The objects chosen for the sculpture stir up feelings of the joy and happiness of childhood and will provide that joy and happiness for many children when the sculpture is disassembled in January 2014. The toys and sporting goods will be distributed by A Wider Circle of Silver Spring, who will disperse them to children in need. A Wider Circle is a non-profit business that assists low income families. According to the website for A Wider Circle, www.awidercircle.org, the mission of the business is “to end poverty” and assist persons in need in many ways.

Choosing A Wider Circle was a “no brainer” says Unnasch. With all of the good things A Wider Circle does it was easy to see that it was the best charity for this project added Unnasch.

“Playtime Jubilee is pretty much what I wanted,” Unnasch said about how the sculpture turned out compared to the vision he had for it adding that he is “pretty darn satisfied” with the outcome.

Karl Unnasch explained “It is rare for a public artist to see a vision become reality.” He feels that has been accomplished with Playtime Jubilee. Karl stated, “The entire project was fulfilling on all levels,” referring to the artistic, collaborative, public art, environmental, social, and personal aspects of the piece he created.

With the “holiday tree” representing so many things, one aspect that stands out is giving back, which is especially important this time of year.

Playtime Jubilee was unveiled on November 16, 2013 and has received the attention of the nation including a story on NBC’s Today Show as well as many newspapers across the country.

Notoriety is nothing new for Unnasch, whose work has been exhibited as far as Europe and has been acclaimed in publications as esteemed as the New York Times and Art in London magazine, according to his website.

Unnasch’s work has also been appreciated locally in places such as the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, Minn., Rochester Community and Technical College, Rochester, Minn., and John Marshall High School in Rochester, among many others.

Unnasch received his BA in Art from Winona State University in 1995 and his MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth in 2003, according to his website. Unnasch has a studio in Pilot Mound, Minn., which was an old mercantile building he revived. Pilot Mound is very special to Unnasch and his studio is open to anyone but especially to other artists to find a tranquil place.

It is stated on Unnasch’s website that “Pilot Mound is Karl’s promise - to himself; to his philosophies; to his ideals. To his friends and Artist colleagues - that there will always be a place they can head when life is whispering that it’s time to re-center; to re-focus; to be re-inspired,” which is a place everyone would like to find themselves now and then.

Even though Unnasch travels around the world he seems to enjoy his little nook in Pilot Mound, more than anywhere else on earth. The Fillmore County area has many reasons to be proud of Karl Unnasch and the first reason may be his love of Fillmore County.

To find more information on Karl Unnasch and additional photos of Playtime Jubilee visit www.karlunnasch.com or email him at karl@karlunnasch.com.

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