The Kentucky Department of Education has selected Marion County High School (MCHS) to represent the Commonwealth in the 2021 National Christmas Tree display.
MCHS joins 57 other schools across the country in creating one-of-a-kind ornaments for the National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse in President’s Park in front of the White House.
The ornaments will adorn 58 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree, which represents each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia as part of the America Celebrates display.
“The America Celebrates display is one of the highlights of the National Tree experience and we are so excited for everyone to see the quilt designs that our talented students from Marion County High School came up with,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “I am so happy our students were able to participate in this fun and creative event, as well as learn a lot during the process about the traditions and symbols of the Commonwealth.”
Kandace Potter, MCHS visual art teacher, said her drawing and painting class studied the Kentucky craft of traditional quilting and painting ornamental barn quilt squares for this project. Tapping into this tradition “became personal” for her because she was able to bring in her grandmother’s handmade quilt to show the students how to piece together organic and geometric shapes into a radial design.
“When I started looking at the project, and the shape of the ornament, I was thinking about symmetry and how we could incorporate it into a meaningful lesson,” she said. “I come from a family who quilts. I thought about the barn quilt paintings and the barn quilt trail and thought it would fit in well with the shape of the ornament and give them a basis.”
The 28 students in Potter’s fall semester drawing and painting class spent the week after their fall break working on the project. The students’ objective was to incorporate a quilt square pattern with Kentucky state symbols – the cardinal, goldenrod, tulip poplar, Kentucky spotted bass, viceroy butterfly and gray squirrel – into a symmetrical design.
Using color pencils, markers, graphite and paint, Potter said the results were “original and unique, much like the artists in the classroom.”
“This year, being able to showcase our students’ talent and getting them involved in more worldly or national things that highlight the arts has been really important. Because, coming off last year, just being able to create and be in the classroom and be excited about what we are doing is really important,” she said.
As a teacher, Potter was especially excited for her senior students. One of the seniors in the class, Emily Tungate, called the experience “an honor” and learned a lot about Kentucky during the experience.
“It really means a lot to me to have my artwork displayed on the National Christmas tree display,” she said. “Art is a big part of my life and the fact that I got to participate in a once in a lifetime opportunity like this is a surreal feeling for me.”
Inspired by the designs of generations of families in Kentucky, Tungate incorporated honeybees in honor of agriculture and the state flower – the goldenrod – in her ornament.
The 99th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be broadcast Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network. The tree display is free to visit and will be open to the public Dec. 4-Jan. 1.
Potter and her family will be going to see the display over Christmas break. She felt it was important for her students to know how much she believed in them and their art.
“I want my students to know how important [their art] is to me,” she said. “Any sort of authentic opportunity we can provide for the students that goes outside of the classroom is important.”