Originally published Nov. 7, 2013.
"The squeaky wheel gets the grease," says Christine Nicholson.
An art teacher at Riverview Middle School, in Huntington, Nicholson took that adage to heart last year when she heard about a unique art opportunity through the National Park Foundation (NPF).
Each year, the NPF selects artists from all 56 U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia to create Christmas ornaments, in conjunction with youth, for the National Christmas Tree display in President's Park, Washington, D.C.
The chance to have Indiana's tree in the display decorated with ornaments crafted by her and her students at Riverview proved irresistible to Nicholson. So, she sent the NPF an e-mail - but found out that they'd already chosen someone else.
While she may have missed out last year, she was determined not to this year. Appropriately, Nich -olson sent the NPF many more e-mails, making the case for why she and her students were up to the task.
"I kept on 'em. I think it's just persistence," she says.
This spring, that persistence paid off.
"Last spring break, they contacted me and said, ‘OK, finally, we've picked you.' I was so excited," Nicholson says.
The next step was meeting with students from the school's art club and figuring out what their orna-
ments would say about the state.
"They first brainstormed what being in Indiana meant to them, beyond their community, beyond just Fort Wayne even, looking at the whole of Indiana," says Nicholson.
"What does it encompass?
"And they created a huge list the first time we met together as an art club and then they kind of picked what they wanted to do and surprisingly there are very few repeats. Everybody wanted to do something different, which was great."
Eighth grader Melanie Lisinicchia opted to do the Indiana state flag.
"I was thinking of doing something with the Indiana Pacers and with different big things about Indiana, but then I saw the Indiana state flag and I remembered drawing it last year for a project that I did, and I actually did pretty good, so I thought, ‘Hey, I'm good at drawing that,'" she says.
Nicholson says students used a variety of different materials to create their ornaments, including paint, glitter, clay and yarn. She notes each ornament took between six and eight hours to complete, with the students doing most of the work at home.
"They were very motivated and there was this sense of awe about, ‘We're not just doing this for Huntington and we're not just doing this for the surrounding areas, like Fort Wayne, this is for all of Indiana," states Nicholson.
Lisinicchia believes the weight of the responsibility inspired her to do some of her best work.
"Just a great opportunity and a great honor because most of the time when my stuff gets displayed, I feel like I didn't do too good of a job on it, so I feel like I really did good on this one," she says. "I focused a lot on it and I'm really happy."
Riverview shipped the ornaments off to the nation's capitol on Friday, Nov. 1. The public will get its first chance to see the ornaments on Dec. 6, when the lighting ceremony for the National Christmas Tree takes place.
Nicholson and her students' ornaments will be displayed on Indiana's tree alongside ornaments from years past.
Nicholson says the experience she and her students had working on the project made her persistence worth it.
"We had this great sense of national community and I think, at least for myself, that's the first time I've even felt that, aside from voting," she says. "This is kind of a big thing."
Complete caption: Christine Nicholson, an art teacher at Riverview Middle School, created Christmas ornaments with students that showcase a variety of things about Indiana. The ornaments will be hung on Indiana’s tree in the National Christmas Tree display in President’s Park, Washington, D.C., through an art opportunity she discovered through the National Park Foundation.