It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: an invitation to visit the White House.
Late summer 2008 Connie Larsen, ornament artist for Bronner’s, received an invitation from Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, via the Bronner family, to participate in a nationwide effort to decorate the official 2008 White House Christmas tree located in the Blue Room of the presidential mansion. Each member of Congress had been asked to secure an artist from his state or district to design an ornament for the tree. Over 360 artists participated from across the United States.
Connie returned a form to the White House in which she agreed to keep the theme of the tree a secret and not to speak to the press about the project before the November 30 announcement of the theme, “A Red, White and Blue Holiday.” Connie soon received a silver plastic ornament, 6 inches in diameter, in the mail.
“I thought about what to put on the ornament,” Connie said. “I settled on the idea of the Silent Night Chapel because it’s an inspiring memorial to the most beloved Christmas song ever. I also think Wally (Bronner, late originator of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland) was whispering in my ear because he loved the building project that resulted in Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel, a replica of the original in Oberndorf, Austria.
“I applied a heavy coat of white tempera to half the ornament to prepare the surface for painting. I took a picture of the chapel, drew a layout, wrapped my pattern around the ornament, transferred some reference lines and in the words of Nike, ‘Just did it.’
Connie Larsen’s ornament for the official White House Christmas tree featured Bronner’s Silent Night Memorial Chapel
“I shipped the finished ornament to Washington about three days before the October 1 deadline and didn’t think much more about it. I thought it was pretty cool to have something I created on the White House tree and hoped that maybe I would get a nice thank-you note on some official-looking stationery. On November 17, a lovely, handwritten envelope did appear and when I opened it, I was shocked to see it was an invitation from Laura Bush to attend a reception at the White House on December 2. I made a travel plans and excitedly waited for the adventure to begin.
“I didn’t know what to expect for a reception at the White House. Maybe a formal program? It wasn’t at all what I expected. It was like an open house – casual, warm and friendly. The artists mingled freely among themselves and the White House staff was friendly and helpful. Each artist had a formal picture taken with the Blue Room tree; there was food, a pianist. Mrs. Bush appeared and spoke to the group for about 10 minutes, thanking them for their ornament designs.
The official White House Christmas tree displays over 360 ornaments, including Connie Larsen’s.
Add a Silent Night Chapel ornament to your tree this Christmas from Bronner’s selection.
Interested in learning more? Read about Wally Bronner and his team’s journey to erecting the Silent Night Chapel replica in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
STARS & STRIPES FOREVER
Or perhaps you’d like to decorate with the red, white and blue.