The Kentucky Department of Education has selected the Owensboro Innovation Academy (Owensboro Independent) to represent the Commonwealth in the 2022 National Christmas Tree display.

Owensboro Innovation Academy 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 designs that our talented students from the Owensboro Innovation Academy came up with to represent what they think makes Kentucky beautiful,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “I am so happy they were able to participate in this fun and creative event, as well as learn a lot during the process.”

Dyana Newton, Owensboro innovation Academy English facilitator, said her graphic design students were used to displaying their artwork locally and were grateful for the chance to do so nationally.   

“We are excited to be a part of the National Christmas Tree display and be able to represent the Commonwealth’s diversity in such a creative and unique way,” she said. “We host numerous student-run events centered around their projects throughout the year. They were excited to have the opportunity to showcase their work on a larger scale.”

The ornament design process began with Owensboro Innovation Academy’s 9th-12th grade graphic design students looking at previous ornament designs. The class discussed what they liked and didn’t like about them. From there, students learned and researched about Kentucky facts and symbols.

Many of Newton’s students had not studied Kentucky before this project and were thrilled to learn more about what makes the Commonwealth such a special place to live.

“We discussed what made Kentucky unique and special to each student personally,” said Newton. “Students combined those things with the research they did on Kentucky to decide what they thought represented the Commonwealth’s diversity best.” 

The student’s objective was to create an original, unique ornament design using Kentucky state symbols that answered the question “What makes your state beautiful?” Students could use any medium and the choices varied from pencil, markers and crayons to digitally drawing with a stylus, said Newton. 

Senior Alistar West said they chose to answer the prompt with an ornament depicting Owensboro’s community, “one of the many places that makes Kentucky beautiful.”

“The ornament I made is representative of Owensboro’s tight-knit community,” said West. “I really enjoyed brainstorming ways to portray abstract ideas. In the ornament, it depicts four individuals from different backgrounds enjoying each other’s company. There are many different types of people from Owensboro and it really is nice to see people being treated as equals.”

Junior Abbey Dockery was most excited about having artistic freedom with the design.

“The thing I enjoyed most about making my ornament was trying to decide what design to go with,” said Dockery. “My ornament is a section of the U.S. map with Kentucky in the center and monarch butterflies on Kentucky representing our state butterfly. I chose butterflies as a double meaning being that they are our state butterfly and that butterflies have a huge meaning to me in my personal life.”

Newton said it’s important for her graphic design students to have an understanding of art for all future endeavors in graphic design.

“In our school, art is a way for the students to show their individuality and self-expression in a safe environment,” she said. “Art can be a medium to show emotions, feelings and express opinions while also being therapeutic.”

The 100th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be broadcast Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network. The tree display is free to visit and will be open to the public Dec. 2-Jan. 1.