Art students at Cavelero Mid High School, Ivonne Salazar, 15 (left) and Maryam Hasan, 14 (center) join teachers Karen Towey (back right) and Kylen Fountain to talk about creating ornaments for the National Christmas Tree project. An image of the tree, located near the White House, is displayed on a screen in the classroom. (Dan Bates) / The Herald)

Art students at Cavelero Mid High School, Ivonne Salazar, 15 (left) and Maryam Hasan, 14 (center) join teachers Karen Towey (back right) and Kylen Fountain to talk about creating ornaments for the National Christmas Tree project. An image of the tree, located near the White House, is displayed on a screen in the classroom. (Dan Bates) / The Herald)

Lake Stevens students add to National Christmas Tree display

“It’s a happy story about Washington,” says Cavelero Mid High School art teacher who headed project.

Ninth-graders Ivonne Salazar and Maryam Hasan have never visited Washington, D.C. Yet an art project they helped create is part of the 2019 National Christmas Tree display, now dazzling visitors to President’s Park near the White House.

“I just thought it would be remarkable to have our students’ art shown at the White House,” said Karen Towey, who teaches Art 1 classes at Cavelero Mid High School.

Twenty-four ornaments made at the Lake Stevens school, each containing two miniature paintings, represent all of Washington state in the display. There are 56 small trees — one for every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia — encircling the National Christmas Tree.

The display, called “America Celebrates: Ornaments from Across the USA,” is a project of the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation. It’s a tradition meant to showcase the history, heritage and culture of the artists’ homes.

For the Lake Stevens artists, there was more to it. By including repurposed tops of yogurt containers, which the paintings are attached to, the ornaments carry an environmental message.

Each small painting of a different locale around Washington is “a symbol of our natural beauty, juxtaposed in a recycled plastic lid,” Towey said. One aim of the project was to highlight the harm plastic pollution causes to Puget Sound’s marine wildlife, she said.

Along with Towey’s students, those in teacher Kylen Fountain’s Art 1 classes at Cavelero painted scenes for the ornaments. Towey submitted a proposal to the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction “to make this happen,” according to Jayme Taylor, Lake Stevens School District spokeswoman.

“Only 56 schools in the nation were chosen for this honor,” Taylor said.

The balls containing the paintings — ironically, they’re plastic — were provided by the National Park Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service. The completed ornaments were shipped in late October to Washington D.C., Taylor said, and are among the creations of more than 1,500 students chosen to participate.

At Cavelero Mid High, which serves eighth- and ninth-graders, Ivonne and Maryam talked Tuesday about painting the scenic images and making the ornaments.

The circular pictures began with the notion of the state quarters, coins that represent the 50 states, Ivonne said. “Then we looked at places, and began with simple pencil sketches,” Maryam said.

From colored-pencil drawings, the young artists made acrylic paintings which were attached to the lids with hot glue. Gloss gel medium was added, boosting the brilliance of the images and providing protection.

“We brainstormed everybody’s favorite places,” said Towey, who encouraged students to consider Eastern Washington as well as nearby locations. Some ornaments also featured wildlife.

“I did Cape Flattery,” said Ivonne, while Maryam’s painting includes a forest, river and rock formation illuminated by a sunset.

At Cavelero Mid High, 230 students created art for the project, but just 48 paintings were chosen for the display in the nation’s capital. The other art hasn’t gone unnoticed. Those pictures are on display at the Schack Art Center in Everett, Towey said.

As they worked on mini paintings, students weren’t told what the artwork was for — only that it was important. Towey said kids didn’t learn until Oct. 31 that their art was part of the National Christmas Tree project. “I was very excited,” Ivonne said.

They were invited to a tree lighting ceremony, but no one could make the trip, Towey said. At the Dec. 5 ceremony at the Ellipse in front of the White House, First Lady Melania Trump was introduced by the president and flipped the switch. The U.S. Marine Corps Band played “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and other performers sang carols.

In 1923, a tree outside the White House was lit by President Calvin Coolidge, starting a tradition now marking its 97th year.

“It’s a happy story about Washington,” Towey said.

Fifteen-year-old Ivonne is a bit young to settle on a career. But even without a trip to the White House, creating art has been a powerful influence on the teen. “I’ve been considering being an art teacher,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

Talk to us

More in Local News

14 residents and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Regency on Whidbey. (Regency on Whidbey)
Virus outbreak reported at Whidbey long-term care facility

Eighteen people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Regency in Oak Harbor.

Xiaomei, a recovered mother goat, is now in good health after a bad bout of mastitis earlier this year. (Kira Erickson / Whidbey News-Times)
Whidbey woman takes in two goats deemed lost cause

With snacks, cuddles, massages and Chinese medicine, she nurtured the animals back to health.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, where a man with the first case of coronavirus in the United States is being treated on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Everett, Wash. Health officials said Tuesday that the man returned to the Seattle area in the middle of last week after traveling to the Wuhan area, where the outbreak began. The man, identified only as a Snohomish County resident is in his 30s, was not considered a threat to medical staff or the public, health officials said. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald via AP)
COVID outbreak at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett

With record-high infection rates, the virus can make its way into any setting, a health official said.

Hospitals put to the test again as virus patients surge

With beds filling, the medical system girds for a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputies investigating body found off Highway 9 in Cathcart

The death of the 56-year-old man from Olympia is not currently considered suspicious.

Snohomish County deputy charged with child rape

Anthony Zayas, 26, claimed he did not know the girl he met on Tinder was 14, charging papers say.

With a final tally, county closes the book on 2020 election

In spite of the pandemic, more voters cast ballots in Snohomish County than in any prior election.

The Point Wells industrial area next to Woodway, where a developer proposes to build more than 3,000 condos. (BSRE Point Wells)
Point Wells plan should abide stricter rules, critics say

Landslide hazard regulations drew scrutiny at a public meeting this week on BSRE’s longtime proposal.

A major fire broke out on the Everett waterfront Monday morning in an apparently difficult location. (Sue Misao / The Herald) 20181008
Everett boater gets house arrest for fraud in marina fire

He lost his boat in a 2018 fire. But valuables he claimed were destroyed weren’t burned. He sold them on OfferUp.

Most Read