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Arkansas students handcraft ornaments to accompany National Christmas Tree

Posted on December 6, 2017

Special to the News-Times


Ornament time: Anna Bishop completed her ornament as part of her Visual Art Class at the South Arkansas Arts Center.

Ornaments by local Arkansas students will dazzle President’s Park (White House) in Washington, D.C. as part of the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting display. Jorge Villegas and Maria Botti Villegas of El Dorado, directed the creation of ornaments that showcase the rich natural and economic resources of the state of Arkansas.

The handcrafted ornaments will adorn one of 56 trees representing each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, as part of the America Celebrates display.

“It is an honor to decorate my home state tree and help the nation celebrate the holidays in one of our most recognizable national parks,” said Jorge Villegas, Artist-In-Education. “I am excited to be part of the America Celebrates display because this is a 95-year-old tradition of inclusiveness at the time of Christmas celebration.”

Students from different cultural and economic backgrounds as well as cognitive abilities, at Washington Middle School in Katie Harwell’s studio art class and at South Arkansas Arts Center grades five through 12, designed and created ornaments using colored pencil, paper, markers and glitter, crafting their designs on circular mat-boards to represent the wonderful natural resources and economic activities in Arkansas.

The ornaments were completed under the direction of Jorge and Maria Villegas, multidisciplinary artists, who have taught for more than 30 years in school systems and centers for disabilities, thanks to grants from the Arkansas Arts Council.

Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, the National Christmas Tree Lighting is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions. The first lighting took place 95 years ago on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse.

Since 1923, each succeeding president has carried on the tradition. For more event information and updates, visit thenationaltree.orgor follow the National Christmas Tree on Twitter at @TheNationalTree. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #NCTL2017.