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AHS selected for National Christmas Tree Lighting ornament display

Conner Hall, Class of 2023, works on his ornament for the National Christmas Tree display.

Students in Arlington High School’s art department used their talents and creativity to help celebrate a long-held American Christmas tradition. AHS is one of only 58 schools in the country and the only school in Tennessee to be selected for the 2022 National Christmas Tree display in Washington, D.C. The program, called America Celebrates, is an annual collaboration of the National Park Service, the U.S. Department of Education and the National Park Foundation and features one-of-a-kind ornaments from student artists. The ornaments adorn 58 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House in President’s Park.

“What a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it is. How often do you get to design an ornament that hangs on the National Christmas Tree,” said Carrol McTyre, one of three visual art teachers at AHS. “The students recognized that they’re likely never going to be asked again to help decorate the front lawn of the White House, so it’s quite the opportunity and honor.”

Fifteen art students from Arlington High were chosen for the program and had about a week and a half to design an ornament that in some way represents Tennessee. Several students showcased Tennessee’s most famous daughter and musician, Dolly Parton, while others drew on inspiration from the state bird (Mockingbird) and landmarks, such as the Hernando de Soto Bridge and pyramid in Memphis. Abby Hill’s design, featuring three mockingbirds singing while perched on a Christmas tree, is also one of only three ornaments featured in the this national press release by the National Park Service.

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Abby Hill's ornament design features three mockingbirds perched on a Christmas tree

Other student artists included Abbie Ahlbrandt, Yami Barbosa, Carlie Epps, Alexa Gossett, Conner Hall, Aidan Harrison, Emily Richarde, Erinn Sheridan, Bri Staufer, Marin Stuart, Laken Vargo, Aaliyah Ware, Griffin Yandell and Hannah Yates. (Scroll to the bottom of this article to see their work)

The National Christmas Tree Lighting has strong ties to education. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge, upon the request of a public school in the nation's capitol, lit the first-ever National Christmas Tree on the South Lawn of the White House. Later during World War II, wartime restrictions meant no new ornaments were purchased for the annual celebration, so students donated ornaments to help supplement the established collection, sparking an annual tradition that has continued since. This year, more than 2,600 students participated in the America Celebrates ornament program. 

Arlington’s ornaments, along with the others, will remain on public display through January 1, 2023. CBS will also broadcast the 100th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Sunday, December 11th at 7 PM CST.

The AHS Visual Arts Department is led by Melanie Anderson, Carrol McTyre and Leanne Wilson.