Rex Dingler believes Christmas is about both giving and receiving. For that reason, he organizes the “NOLA Rising Art for Toys Swap” in conjunction with the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots annual holiday toy drive.
“We put a new twist on the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots, offering a piece of art for every donated toy,” said Dingler, an artist, former Marine and founder of NOLA Rising, a nonprofit promoting street art and social justice.
Dingler has been busy for weeks, collecting art from local artists as well as accepting shipments from abroad. He was lucky this year to have the cooperation of The Secret Society of Super Villains, an art activist group based in the United Kingdom that includes Silen T Bill, Rumple Stiltskin, Simon Birkhead, Art87JR, Pauli Bates and El Bev, who will all be donating artwork.
The art-for-toy exchange will take place noon to 6 p.m., Sunday at Gasa Gasa, 4920 Freret St. Anyone who brings a new toy in a box can select a painting, photograph, sculpture, piece of jewelry or other artwork rendered by a local, national or international artist. Some artists donate as many as 20 pieces.
“Rex hangs it like a gallery,” said Amy Loewy who plans to donate a framed photograph she took of a beautifully dilapidated shotgun house. She enjoys attending the show as well as helping Dingler, a personal friend for some 17 years.
“It’s great not only for the kids but for the artists in the city because they are getting exposure,” Loewy said.
Margaret “Mags” Coble said there is a certain cache for an artist to be invited into this “unique and weird art show” besides contributing to a good cause. Coble enjoyed attending the earliest art swaps held at XO Studios, Cafe Brasil and the Hi-Ho Lounge.
“Who can resist a Toys for Tots drive?” she asked.
Art collectors attend and most people donate high-quality gifts in the true spirit of the occasion.
Anthony Posey, a New Orleans photographer, believes “if more people helped, less people would need help.”
“As an artist, expressing humanity is part of why we do what we do. So, by sharing a photo or two, a kid or two can have a Christmas present. This just seems the right thing to do. I also will be bringing toys so more children can have and know someone some place cares.”
The U.S. Marine Corps Foundation’s Toys for Tots collection will continue through Dec. 21, although toy distribution to churches, schools, hospitals and the Saints begins earlier. People who want to donate new, unwrapped toys can find a list of locations at new-orleans-la.toysfortots.org. Monetary contributions are also welcome.
Toys for Tots Coordinator Staff Sgt. Sylvester Dollard has already made a $10,000 purchase at Toys R Us.
“Last year, we distributed 50,000 toys. I want that 50,000 to turn into 100,000,” Dollard said. For information, call Dollard at (800) 670-8384.
In addition to local toy drives, volunteers are needed to help the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation with the transportation and storage of toys; assisting in the local warehouse; assisting with meals and more.