Ochonicky Chosen To Create Ornament For White House Christmas Tree

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light a 48-foot fir tree decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white and green, as a local choir and a “quartet” from the U.S. Marine Band performed. 87 years later, on December 9, 2010, this American holiday tradition continues to bring citizens together to share in a message of hope and peace.

Surrounding the National Christmas Tree are 54 trees, each representing a state or territory of the United States. This event is coordinated by the National Parks Foundation.

One Selected Artist from each state has been chosen by that state’s Governor this year.

Missouri’s Selected Artist is Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky of Eureka, MO. Each Selected Artist was responsible for designing and coordinating the decoration of their state or territory’s ornaments.  The design of the ornaments – the theme — reflects the holiday season in that state or territory. The artist was paired with a youth arts group, selected by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)  to help in the creation of the ornaments. Ochonicky’s design for Missouri  involved over 100 students, including those with special needs,  from Hazelwood West Middle School in Hazelwood, MO.  The students served as Artist’s Assistants in the project.

Ochonicky’s designs clearly represented the state of Missouri. She described her creations as follows, “Each contains a hand-sculpted and painted Eastern Bluebird (our state bird). We typically have more ice than snow in a Missouri winter; hence, the ice crystals in each globe. The letters of “Missouri” utilize our state’s symbols as well: each letter ‘I’ is dotted, respectively,  with a hawthorn blossom (our state flower) and a dogwood blossom (our state tree). The letter “M” is finished off with a music note, to honor our state’s rich musical heritage. The two “ss” turn into rivers, to recognize Missouri’s vast waterways, which include the Mississippi, Missouri, Meramec and countless other rivers.”

Each state/territory is asked to produce 26 ornaments; 25 will be hung on the state/territory Christmas tree as part of the National Christmas Tree display, and one (Ochonicky’s prototype) will be hung on a Christmas tree in the White House Visitor Center where each state/territory’s ornament will be showcased.  The Selected Artist is invited to attend the official lighting ceremony by President Obama on December 9. The gala event is televised nationally.

Visit www.thenationaltree.org  for more info. Ochonicky is Arts Editor for The Healthy Planet.