It has been called beautiful, awesome, and brilliant, a transcendent work of art that reimagines the holiday experience with local touches of the Jersey Shore. It also has been called ridiculous, ugly, and hideous, something akin to a pile of Amazon shipping boxes or a giant cat-scratching post. The AP reports a fresh-cut natural Christmas tree usually graces the Grand Arcade at Convention Hall on Asbury Park's historic boardwalk. But this year, in its place is art made of cardboard in the shape of a tree that also incorporates elements of the seashore, the city's architecture, and its rich musical heritage, which most notably includes Bruce Springsteen. It is designed to be recycled after it is dismantled.
"I think it's very creative," said Asbury Park resident Elizabeth Khimitch, who brought her two dogs to be photographed in front of the display. "It fits the Asbury vibe, which is different and unusual." Others were not as appreciative. "Not a fan,” added Amy Mackey, who lives near Asbury Park. "Asbury has conformed into this artsy town, but tradition is tradition! This is art, and I wouldn’t take my child’s picture in front of this tree. Can’t we just have our traditional tree?" "No lights?" said Zuzanna Humeniuk, of Wall. “It's creative, but not festive at all."
The change came about this year when the city's art community approached Madison Marquette, the private owner and manager of the Asbury Park boardwalk, about creating a Christmas tree sculpture for Convention Hall, according to Austin Leopold, the boardwalk's property manager. "When presented with the concept for the sculpture, we passionately embraced the idea," Leopold said. Michael Lavallee, a local artist who goes by the name Porkchop, created the piece with Brad Hoffer. They call it "The Giving Tree." The piece uses natural and artificial lighting to cast shadows on parts of the tree while illuminating others so that its appearance changes throughout the day. (Here's an alternative tree of a more criminal nature.)