Photograph: Andy Heidt

Photograph: Andy Heidt

Art from our Hearts

by DeeGee Lester

Photograph: Lori Kissinger

Photograph: Lori Kissinger

This year when President Obama steps out onto the Ellipse to continue the ninety-year tradition of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, a group of Tennesseans will watch with special excitement and anticipation. One of the 56 trees that surround the enormous national tree and represent U.S. states and territories will display the handmade ornaments crafted as a gift to the state and the nation by talented artists from VSA Tennessee.

A statewide non-profit, VSA Tennessee works, through the arts, with people with disabilities. Executive Director Lori Kissinger received the invitation for participation from the National Parks Foundation in September. “This opportunity is truly a wonderful chance for our young artists to demonstrate their talents on a national stage. It also gives recognition to young people with disabilities, as it is through their efforts that our state will be represented.”

Under the direction of VSA resident artist Pam Weston, an invitation was extended to all young artists who have participated in its programming over the past two years. The twenty-four coveted spots for creation of the ornaments went to those who responded first. Each state was provided with 24 “Globe” ornaments that could be decorated on the outside or from the inside.

On October 21, Weston and student assistants from MTSU directed a special workshop on the MTSU campus, guiding participants through the ornament-making process. Each young artist created two ornaments—one for the national tree and one to keep as a reminder of their accomplishment and their gift of art from the heart.

For information on VSA Tennessee, visit www.vsatn.org.

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