Michelle Ochonicky, an area artist who exhibits in Crestwood's ArtSpace, created the Missouri state ornament that will hang on a White House Christmas tree this year. At the invitation of the president, she is expected to attend the lighting ceremony of the National Christmas tree on Thursday.
Crestwood residents recently got to meet Ochonicky and see her work at the three-day "ARTstravaganza" festival at Crestwood Court. One of Ochonicky's ornaments will adorn the White House Visitor Center tree and 25 more will decorate the Missouri state tree on the Ellipse, an egg-shaped park between the Washington Monument and White House.
In her design, which looks like a snow globe, she incorporated the image of Missouri's state bird, a bluebird.
One artist and one group of youths were selected from each of the nation's states, territories and the District of Columbia to design and create the ornaments.
Ochonicky said she had no idea state officials were considering her for artist of the 2010 holiday ornament.
"It was a surprise honor. I got a phone call in July, out of the blue, from Gov. (Jay) Nixon's office," Ochonicky said.
Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education named Hazelwood West Middle School to work with Ochonicky. The directive was that middle school students serve as artist assistants in creating the ornaments for the outdoor Ellipse tree.
"I designed the ornament to include as many students as possible," Ochonicky said. "The students worked on different parts. Even special-needs children were able to work on them, adding the ice crystals to the ornaments."
Ochonicky is happy about the trappings that come with being the artist of the state ornament. She was scheduled to present a copy of the ornament to Nixon and his wife in Jefferson City on Dec. 3.
"Then my husband and I will be guests at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony when President Obama lights the tree on (Thursday). It's a great honor to represent my state on a national level through my artwork," Ochonicky said.
She also serves as Executive Director of Missouri Artisans Association/The Best of Missouri Hands, a statewide guild. Her art is part of a collection at the Missouri governor's mansion and she received a Gifted Education award from Rockwood School District for teaching.