Ellicott City students add to glow of Maryland tree

By Mary K. Tilghman

Special to the Review

ELLICOTT CITY – The Maryland tree that will stand near the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., this December will have decorations celebrating the state’s natural beauty thanks to the artistry of students from Resurrection-St. Paul School.

Each painted an ornament to hang on one of the state trees that surround the National Tree.

The Maryland State Arts Council asked artist-in-residence Kristin Helberg to recruit young artists to create the 12 ornaments. She immediately thought of Resurrection-St. Paul School in Ellicott City, where she is working on a mural with fourth-graders.

“This is a great school to come to as a teacher-artist,” Helberg said. “They love art here.”

At Helberg’s request, art teacher Michele Ruppert said she selected 10 students with good painting and drawing skills who embody the school’s values to join the two of them in painting ornaments.

The clear plastic balls, supplied by the National Park Service, which sponsors the National Christmas Tree, are usually filled with decorations but Helberg and Ruppert decided to paint them in eye-catching color. On one side is the state’s distinctive flag; on the other images of the state’s natural beauty.

“We have so many great recreational areas here,” Helberg said.

Students drew their designs on tracing paper before transferring them to the balls which were already covered with blue, pink and orange paint. Then the young artists layered on color and detail to create fine images.

“It’s a long process but they did a good job,” Ruppert said.

There were lessons along with the art. Seventh- grader Casey Boin learned about the intricate coloring of the Baltimore oriole while classmate Aidan Scranton figured out how to create straight lines on a curved surface. The lighthouse is a subject he knows well from fishing trips on the bay.

“I can’t believe I got this,” he said.

Jasmin Edrington, an eighth-grader, carefully traced the trunk and branches of the Wye Oak and then used exuberant color to add leaves and bark detail. Classmate Mia Fleck added subtle shading to her brown-and-white Assateague pony while Donovan Hernandez, also an eighth-grader, layered on color so his blue crab looked realistic.

Seventh-grader Kamy Onate added a curve to his rockfish to make it appear to be swimming. You can’t miss the gleam in the eye of Nick Forgen’s Deep Creek Lake bear.

“I think I did a good job,” the eighth-grader said.

Thomas Nickel, a seventh-grader, said the first brush strokes of his terrapin made him nervous. “By the time I was doing the Maryland flag, it was all so natural to me,” he said.

The Maryland State Arts Council has coordinated the state ornament project for nearly a decade, according to Executive Director Theresa Colvin, who said, “We think this is a great way to express how important arts education is in our state.”

The students completed their project in two afternoons before sending them off in mid-October. The Maryland tree, on “Pathway of Peace” around the National Christmas Tree in President’s Park, will be lit Dec. 3 and stay lit through December.

When the two art teachers showed off their students’ work just before packing them up, they were clearly proud of the brightly colored orbs.

“I think we aced it,” Helberg said.
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