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Local kids got the chance to showcase their artistic talent at the White House this year.

Art students at the Gallery One Visual Arts Center in Ellensburg created Christmas ornaments that were used to decorate the Washington state tree for the 2016 National Christmas Tree display, which is part of a program called “America Celebrates: Ornaments from across the USA.” The tree display is set up near the White House on the mall in Washington, D.C.

This is the first year Gallery One has participated in the program. Kids ranging in age from 4 to 16 designed and made ornaments.

Monica Miller, executive director at Gallery One, said about 70 students made ornaments out of transparent Shrinky Dinks, which are large flexible sheets of plastic. When the Shrinky Dinks are heated up, they scale down into small hard plates that show the design on both sides.

“(We invited) everyone in our Art After School class to make an ornament to symbolize what the Northwest meant to them and transfer it onto a Shrinky Dink,” Miller said. “So the cool thing about that is the young artists are learning about transferring their drawing or their visual idea and all of these concepts sort of play into these creative tools that we want them to learn. So they had to think about the Northwest and pick out things that were special to them.”

Some of the Northwest-inspired designs included orcas, the forest, a fox and a dinosaur. The gallery was given 12 plastic spheres to put the ornaments in for the national tree. Twelve designs out of the 70 were drawn in a hat and sent to Washington, D.C. The rest of the ornaments are on display at the Rotary Pavilion in downtown Ellensburg.

The governor of each state is asked by the National Park Service to find people and programs to create ornaments for the annual Christmas celebration. Miller said Gov. Jay Inslee asked Karen Hanan, executive director at the Washington State Arts Commission, to find an organization that could help make the ornaments.

“The governor’s office was very pleased with how it all ended up. This is meaningful for the kids. They were all impressed with what the kids did,” Hanan said. “These kids put their heart into it. It’s amazing what they can do when given a challenge. Monica and her team did a really good job.”

Hanan said Gallery One was picked because of the great arts education program for kids and she knew Miller and the rest of the students would do a good job making the ornaments. In addition to that, Gallery One is a grantee of ArtsWA and the commission looks for opportunities like this to give students an opportunity to engage in a meaningful project.

ArtsWA funds two programs at Gallery One. One of the programs is to produce a video series on artists and the other is to give an assessment of the arts education programs in Ellensburg.

“There were all sorts of great layers to this as an assignment for the kids,” Miller said. “And we get to show them off nationally.”

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