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Eccles Theater’s Christmas tree is made up of 75 snowboards, math and imagination

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Eccles Theater unveils its annual Holiday Tree art installation, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. The title is "Winter Wind," created by Rob Beishline & Shelley Beishline of Tooza Design. The work features 75 snowboards.

Hanging this year’s holiday tree in the Eccles Theater lobby required imagination, thoughts about nature and Utah’s winter sports, some math and engineering skills, a nod to personal tradition, and about nine months’ effort.

All of that is wrapped up in the art installation that Utah designers Rob and Shelley Beishline unveiled this week in the lobby of the Eccles, at 131 S. Main St. in downtown Salt Lake City. It will remain there through the holiday season, visible to concert attendees and passersby touring the lights from Temple Square and Gallivan Center.

The holiday tree is a newer downtown tradition, launched at the Eccles in 2018. The Beishlines — who have run their studio, Tooza Designs, for some 20 years — have been working on this year’s tree since April.

“Whenever we do an art project, we look for an interesting twist, or a different way to do something that’s a little bit unexpected,” Rob Beishline said in an interview.

Shelley Beishline said the couple brainstormed about winter images, and thought, “We are surrounded by mountains, and the beauty of the trees and the ski resorts, and the plethora of winter sports that we are able to enjoy here in Utah. Snowboarding is one of the things that came up.”

The Beishlines enjoy cross-country skiing, but fondly remember watching the snowboarding halfpipe competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics. They decided the curvature and flexibility of snowboards fit the look for their holiday tree.

The Beishlines designed 75 snowboard figures, made from aluminum-laminated plastic, each cut to a precise size to encircle a spiral aluminum frame with 90 custom-made armature pieces. Shelley Beishline said they would have loved to have recycled old snowboards, but weight limitations for the tree, suspended over the Eccles lobby, made that unworkable.

The spiral, Rob Beishline said, is a callback to the Fibonacci spiral, a mathematical formula that is a staple of classical art and architecture.

Printed on the snowboards are graphic designs Rob Beishline adapted from homemade wrapping paper. That’s a Christmas tradition in the Beishline family, begun several years ago, Rob Beishline said, when he had procrastinated on wrapping presents and didn’t have any paper on Christmas Eve — so he designed and printed his own.

The green tones on the rectangular snowboard shapes, Shelley Beishline said, “reads like pine needles.” Another part of the graphic design, she said, suggests red ribbon and incorporates the Eccles Theater logo.

One mandate from theater management was creating something that would inspire people to snap photos for social media. The tree allows that, not only from the side and from the theater’s upper floors, but also from underneath, looking up inside the spiral.

At the end of the unveiling this week, when most everyone had cleared out, Shelley Beishline said, “I said to Rob, ‘I just can’t resist. I have to go and stand under this tree. And in my high heels, I’m going to spin.’ I found myself, as an adult, becoming a child again, and just spinning underneath this tree. … I definitely just got to feel that kaleidoscope kind of wonderful movement, seeing the tree from the underside.“

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