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'Merry Trees' exhibit is a celebration of art, literature and the holidays
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'Merry Trees' exhibit is a celebration of art, literature and the holidays

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The Fredericksburg Area Museum’s “Merry Trees” is on display throughout its galleries, and all are invited to an open house on the evening of Dec. 3. For the sixth year, the museum has partnered with Fredericksburg schools to create an exhibit of table-top trees with ornaments crafted by elementary school students.

This year, “Merry Trees” features artwork by second-grade students from Lafayette and Hugh Mercer elementary schools, and each tree is decorated with ornaments from one classroom, inspired by the theme of a book that the students have read together. A total of 16 trees are on display throughout the museum’s three floors.

“The exhibit is a celebration of art, literature and the holiday season,” said Theresa Cramer, education and public program coordinator. “The tree display is a wonderful complement to our exhibits and can provide an introduction to the museum for some families who have never explored our artifacts from Fredericksburg’s history.”

The ornaments have been crafted from a range of media, including paper and glitter, art foam, and modeling clay, and each creation reflects a young artist’s personality, heart and humor as it conveys the message and storyline of a book that has engaged them. The themes depicted this year include “The Grouchy Lady Bug,” with comical bravado that brings important insights regarding bullying, and “The Secrets of the Apple Tree,” which reveals the plethora of natural phenomena and creatures that contribute to the ecosystem of just one tree.

Three books by acclaimed children’s author Patricia Polacco, with stories that are based on tales told by her Ukrainian grandmother, will also be featured this year. “The Keeping Quilt” is a moving story in which the lives of four generations of a family are represented by the fabric scraps that were once part of their clothing incorporated in a comforter. The book explains that the quilt has served throughout the years both as wedding canopies and children’s superhero capes. Polacco’s “Rechenka’s Eggs” tells the tale of an elderly grandmother who is renowned among the villagers for the beautiful eggs she paints. When one day she rescues a wounded goose, she nurses it back to health and she names her new companion Rechenka. Sadly, just as she was preparing to decorate eggs for a holiday display, Rechenka accidentally breaks them all. When it seems that all is lost, the goose shows the woman that miracles can really happen.

The themes of this year’s “Merry Trees” include stories by some long-standing favorite children’s authors, including “Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons” by Eric Litwin, “The Snowy Day” by Erza Jack Keats and Mo Willems’ humorous “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late.” The students’ innovative ornaments include snow globes made from plastic containers, sparkling paper menorahs and stars, little foam snowmen, and pigeons and dinosaurs crafted from modeling clay.

During the museum’s free open house, visitors will have an opportunity to see each class’s tree, participate in a family holiday I Spy game and visit with Santa in the museum’s galleries.

The students’ investment of their creativity, talent and imagination in their creations reflects their appreciation for the enchanting tales they depict as well as their excitement about the opportunity to have their artwork displayed in this iconic public venue.

“The ‘Merry Trees’ exhibit is a great way to start the holiday season and it provides a wonderful opportunity for families and the community to come together to see the creativity of our students,” said Cramer.

Collette Caprara contributes to The Free Lance-Star.

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