ART: Trees spring up

The challenge was to create something “tree-like”.

The Old Takoma Business Association (OTBA) is holding the reCYCLE The Art of Tree Project public art exhibition in Old Takoma Park as a way to pull in tourists and let them visit the various independent shops in Old Takoma Park.

This year’s exhibition follows in the footsteps of last year’s reCYCLE The Art of Bike Project, which displayed bicycle art throughout the city. The thought process behind choosing the theme was in finding something that appealed to Takoma Park residents, according to Laura Barclay, co- executive director of Old Takoma Business Association. This year they went with the theme of trees because it was something that was “dear to Takoma Park.”

The art project was open to all artists, regardless of whether they were local or not, and the Old Takoma Business Association had a jury of people that looked at the sketches submitted and matched them up with the locations that OTBA had permits for.

Paul Steinkoenig is a Hyattsville artist who had treated art as a side hobby for the past 30 years. He created the “Potted Japanese Maple” piece located at Cedar Crossing Tavern and Wine Bar. He studied art but not substantially and only recently began to consider himself an artist.

“[Art has] been, basically, my heart beat for many years,” Steinkoenig admitted.

His piece uses a rustic pot he found at the salvage yard and recycled beer bottles that he hammered flat to make the colorful flowers. Steinkoenig chose the Japanese maple tree as his inspiration because he loved how it could be so beautiful yet ancient-looking at the same time. About 90 percent of his art piece is recycled.

A trio of trees can be found at the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op. The art piece is called the “Immigrant Forest” and is made up of a bamboo tree with crocheted leaves, a green insulation pipe cactus surrounded by plastic mulch, and a metal palm tree covered in crocheted jute.

The “Immigrant Forest” was created by a group of local artists who call themselves The Frolicking Female Fiber Fanatics of Takoma Park. The group is made up of Anna Lisa Leonessa, Marcelle Fozard, and Leda Black.

“I love these public art projects and we wanted to do something for the community,” said Fozard on the group’s decision to participate in this year’s project.

The idea behind the art piece was to display trees that were foreign species in Takoma Park, such as the “palm tree from outer space,” according to Leonessa. This symbolizes the immigrants that make up “the forest that is Takoma Park.” The idea was to represent the different cultures and different people that take root in Takoma Park.

“They only wanted the cactus at first because of space but we pushed for them to be together, otherwise it wouldn’t have had the same meaning [otherwise],” Leonessa explained.

The OTBA commissioned the artists and, while it did not ask for a specific percentage of recycled material, it asked that at least some materials in the art piece be recycled.

Signs that display the name of the artist and the piece and a map that shows the other stops on the self-guided walking tour accompany the art pieces.

A visual arts exhibit with non-sculpture art pieces like drawing, paintings, mixed media, jewelry and photography is also part of the walking tour and is located at ArtSpring Community Arts Gallery.

It is an exhibit that appeals to Takoma Park resident’s love of art and trees and will be on display until October 7.