Have you ever wondered how DaVinci, Calder, or Picasso would have decorated their Christmas Tree? The Parkersburg Art Center wondered just that and invited local artists and school groups to come together to imagine what this classic holiday décor would have looked like in the hands of famous and not-so-famous artists. The result is a community celebration of festive art and creativity that features 15 uncommonly designed and decorated Christmas Trees.

Thanks to the continued support of Family Carpet, the Artist’s Tree exhibit is now in its 15th year. “In an effort to create an ongoing tree display that was specific to the PAC, Abby Hayhurst came up with the idea to create trees as if they were decorated by a famous artist,” said Kelley Cartwright, one of the event chairs who helped coordinate this year’s event. “It has become a tradition at the PAC and is a challenge to those who participate in creating a tree to be creative, using recycled or repurposed materials.”

Inspired by “The Snail (L’Escargot)” by Henri Matisse

The exhibit has grown over the years, said Cartwright, both in the number of trees displayed as well as the interest from community members in creating a tree,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to invite folks who may not have a former relationship with the PAC to be involved in such a fun, creative event.”

“This year’s trees range from a colorful take on Matisse done by the Shaw family to a tree inspired by Nick Cave, a contemporary, African-American sculptor, which is being designed by the team at the Marietta Makerspace,” said Hayhurst, Art Center Artistic Director. “Bring some dollar bills and vote for your favorites!”

As the Parkersburg Art Center exists to promote, enhance and contribute to the artistic and cultural lives of our community, the Artist Tree exhibit is a festive manifestation of the institution’s mission. The trees serve as fun, educational, and creative tools to educate the community and encourage creativity. 

Both adults and students contributed to the creation of the exhibit.

Inspired by “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Hokusai

Michelle Waters, local photographer and artist, helped execute the vision for the Artsbridge/ArtCart tree inspired by The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. “Since it was a famous Japanese print, we also decorated with dozens of origami boats and fish, plus a handful of other sea life ornaments,” said Waters. “It was really fun to reimagine the wave as a tree. We had added some extra branches to the top and one side to help create the asymmetrical feel of the wave, and used gardland to showcase the wave crests.”

Waters’ eight-year-old daughter helped decorate the tree, which Waters said is so much of what she loves about the ArtCart program. “We all love kinds and we love to help them see their inner creativity.”

Cartwright and event co-chair Kasey Snyder decided to highlight contemporary artists with both of their trees this year. “Damien Hirst’s ‘Cherry Blossoms’ will be displayed in an upcoming exhibit in Paris in the Spring of 2021 and Maurizio Cattelan executed ‘Comedian’ just last year and drew lots of media attention,” said Cartwright.

Inspired by “Comedian” by Maurizio Cattelan

She also shared a few of her favorites from the exhibit. “I really enjoyed the Rothko tree this year, it’s so warm! I love that you see the tree differently standing up close versus viewing it from a distance. It was very well executed.”

Another favorite was the tree designed by Artbeat Studio. “This tree just screams happiness. It’s colorful and fun to look at,” said Cartwright. A third, by Virginia Killian, was inspired by ‘Golden Dreams’ and other works by Charles Burchfield. “Virginia designs great trees year after year.”

In addition to being an educational display, the Artist Tree Exhibit also benefits the community. Viewers can vote for their favorite tree by donating change. The money gathered from donations are used to buy art supplies used for outreach programs with the Boys & Girls Club, the Children’s Home Society, and “Arty Parties,” free community art parties that usually take place on Saturdays throughout the winter. With the pandemic restricting in-person events, this year’s art supplies will be used to fill ‘take & make’ art bags.

Inspired by “Untitled” by Mark Rothko

The exhibit opened on November 27th and will be on display through December 23rd. Visitors are asked to wear a mask and sanitize their hands while inside the Art Center. Sanitization stations have been placed throughout the galley level. The Art Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Those unable to visit can also view the trees on the PAC’s website, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

Cartwright encourages the community to take in the exhibit this holiday season. “The Tree Exhibit is something outside of the home that the community can safely enjoy,” she said. “The Art Center is going above and beyond to keep visitors safe during this pandemic while still offering a creative, warm atmosphere.”