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More than just a Tree

Whoa, tannenbaum: Local designers transform traditional holiday trees into
creative objects of art as part of Florida International University’s annual Festival of
the Trees. The event, which raises money for scholarships and other FIU programs, takes
place Thursday.

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to the Miami Herald

For interior designer Jennifer Benjamin, children are at the heart of the holidays.

“It really comes down to the toy or unwrapping of something,” she said.

Benjamin along with her co-workers at Hellmuth Obata Kassabaum, an architecture
firm based in the Design District, transformed her theory into art by creating a holiday
tree representing the festive spirit of children.

The artwork will be one of many on display at the Florida International
University Design Department’s 24th annual Festival of the Trees in the Coverings Showroom
and Ironsides event space, 7610 NE Fourth Ct., at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, November 18. Tickets
are $55 and will including food, entertainment and drinks. Proceeds will benefit student
scholarships, field trips and guest speakers.

The entries seek to demonstrate that positive change through design can make a
difference in the world — and embrace the holiday spirit while going beyond the typical,
traditional tree. Judges will choose winners in categories of most responsible, most
inspired, most global and most humanitarian.

Benjamin’s group titled its creation the “The Universal

Imagination of Children”.

The four-foot tree stands on a styrofoam base and looks like an inverted cone
supporting seven wooden sticks — each representing a continent– with a spiral wrapped
around the objects. Handmade marbles will be adhered to the spiral, said Benjamin. A
Slinky toy also inspired the design; a version was was made specifically for the project
at a metal shop, and intertwines with the elements.

“Not every child is fortunate as the other,” said Benjamin, an FIU alumnus.
‘‘It’s a celebration of the child’s mind and creation.”

There will be 20 trees on display, which will be auctioned off.

The FIU Interior Design Department Advisory Board works throughout the year to
organize the affair.

“The event gives designers and artists a venue to display the versatility of their
talents to a wide audience,” said Janine King, chairperson of interior design department
at FIU.

As for Benjamin, who has participated four times, it’s also a chance to share in
some holiday cheer with her co-workers.

‘‘It is an event that brings our office internally together,” she said. “It builds us as
a team.”

For information visit www.festivalofthetrees.net.

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