Few things can bring people together like the holidays, and nothing shows that better than the breathtaking 23-foot, Texas-grown Christmas tree in the Texas House chamber.
For nine years, the tree (affectionately nicknamed “Ruby”) has been decorated with ornaments from constituents around the state, invited by legislators to design ornaments to represent their districts.
What results is a celebration of the diversity and history of Texas, and it warrants a look if you happen to be around the capitol for the holidays.
Many of the ornaments on display come from middle and high school students, themed with state symbols like the Texas flag, country music lyrics, and wildflowers.
Some of the districts have gone above and beyond to remind people who they are and what they represent. Guadalupe Hernandez of Hempstead High School crafted two incredible landscapes that capture the folky, old-time quality of Hempstead.
Delia Fourie, Lily Purdum, and Veronika Sloan of Longview High School also brought their town to life with a striking and vibrant painting of Longview’s annual hot air balloon festival.
We spoke to Joe Friddle, who painted a series of classic western scenes on behalf of Brad Buckley (TX-24).
“Brad’s coverage includes Bell County and part of Lampasas County,” says Friddle. “Salado is somewhat the eastern edge, through Killeen to a portion of Lampasas. I wanted to depict something that recognized the area he serves. The Stagecoach Inn in Salado is well-known throughout the county, thus the stagecoach coursing the area, with the District, 54, on the door.
Road signs pointing to Salado, Killeen, and the railroad signs are a reminder Killeen was a major rail stop in its conception. The Army star as a guide, and finally, Lampasas—the end of the line.”
Audrey Springer was invited by Lynn Stucky to represent District 64, which includes Denton.
Her contribution is a trio of balls that honor the Denton Community Theatre. The historic and iconic playhouse is celebrating fifty years of bringing performances to Texas audiences.
One of the most artistically accomplished ornaments on the tree comes from Christina Miller, an art teacher at Edward Titche Elementary from Rep. Toni Rose’s district in Dallas. She took her school’s tiger mascot and rendered her ball into a hypnotic close-up of a tiger’s eye that is as beautiful as it is slightly unnerving.
It definitely lends new weight to the old saying that “the eyes of Texas are upon you.”
In District 121, Alexandria Williams of MacArthur High School created an impressive sculptural offering. Under the guidance of teacher Bianca Pitman, she crafted a soft, frosted blue hot air balloon piloted by an adorable mouse in a Santa cap.
The overall collection is non-partisan and secular, with the most overt political statements simply calls to invest in local communities.
For a tumultuous year in Texas politics, these heartwarming symbols of who makes up this state are a nice reminder that we can come together for a common betterment of the public sphere.
Here’s to the many local artists who had the chance to shine on the Capitol tree.