Photo Courtesy of the White House
THIS ORNAMENT, PAINTED by former Callicoon Center resident Audrey Hauser McCullough, represented the local National Park Service on the White House Christmas Tree.
Local Artist's Ornament Graces White House Tree
By Jeanne Sager
WASHINGTON, DC December 7, 2007 The scene was breathtaking it was after all the White House but there’s just one ornament that stands out clearly in Carla Hahn’s mind.
Hanging from a branch on the southeast side of the 18-foot Fraser fir, the ball is a recreation in acrylics of Hahn’s workplace the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, one of 347 of the national parks represented on this year’s official White House Christmas Tree.
The icing on the cake?
All 6 inches of delicate detail were painted by Hahn’s sister, area native Audrey Hauser McCullough.
A china painter who has been lauded for her work around the world, McCullough was raised in Callicoon Center and graduated from the Jeffersonville school.
Today she lives in Kingston, but spends a great deal of time in her old hometown in part because of her family.
Hahn lives in Callicoon and works as a program specialist for the National Park Service across the river in Pennsylvania.
Earlier this year, a request from The White House came across her desk, asking each park to submit an ornament in keeping with President George W. Bush’s national park centennial initiative.
“I said I know someone, and it’s right up her alley,” Hahn recalled.
Her bosses at the park service took a look at McCullough’s work and instantly agreed.
Twice featured at the World Organization of China Painters Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla., McCullough has traveled around the world perfecting her art.
She’s long provided the members of the Hauser family with hand-painted creations to adorn their homes.
She has just one rule.
“She doesn’t sell her work,” Hahn explained. “She only gives it.”
With no money in the budget for the Park Service to hire an artist, this was a volunteer job which suited McCullough just fine.
Given a few ideas by the Park Service, McCullough blended the sights she thought best represented the area in and around the Delaware River.
Circling around the ball, the scene shows the Zane Grey Museum in Lackawaxen, Pa., the Roebling Bridge, which links Barryville to Pennsylvania, the Delaware and the national symbol the bald eagle.
“It sort of looks like the Lackawaxen pool if you’re looking at it from the north to the south,” Hahn explained.
McCullough was commissioned July 10, told she’d have to have the ornament complete by Oct. 1.
“But my sister the world traveler had only a few weeks to work on it,” Hahn said.
Nonetheless McCullough’s reproduction is exquisite.
The simple design of a winter’s day on the river belies the intricacy of the workmanship.
Unable to be interviewed because she left for Prague just hours after the unveiling of the tree in the Blue Room last week, McCullough is now part of the nation’s history.
At the close of the year, her ornament will be removed and stored in the national archives.
Until then, it will remain on display in a room Hahn called “absolutely gorgeous.”
The two women were invited to attend last week’s reception for the artists and National Park Service representatives the day before First Lady Laura Bush gave the media a special look-see.
Entering through the East Wing, they made their way past a large model of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, panels featuring presidents and first families celebrating Christmas at the White House and visiting various national parks and examples of Christmas cards from 10 presidential administrations.
The Grand Foyer itself was decorated with a 3-foot model of the Statue of Liberty, and oil paintings of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, along with eight Christmas trees.
“Everything was beautifully decorated,” Hahn said. “There were wreaths and gold everywhere.”
On each side of the foyer were rooms filled with buffet tables heaped with food a White House fact sheet estimates this season’s festivities will include the consumption of 20,000 Christmas cookies, 700 pounds of crab, 10,000 handmade tamales and 320 gallons of eggnog.
The highlight for the sisters was a walk through the Blue Room, where the chandelier had been removed to make space for the towering pine set dead center.
“The ornaments were spectacular every single one,” Hahn said.
Of course “her park” was what she was looking for, and the women found the ball in the southeast corner of the tree, hanging by a thin wire.
McCullough has a “work-in-progress” ornament that she set aside while creating the final masterpiece it will likely be part of an upcoming exhibit in Narrowsburg on the part the Upper Delaware park has played in this year’s national Christmas celebration.
With one of McCullough’s three children, daughter Lisa Rosenberger, still living in Sullivan County, Hahn hopes she can entice her sister to take part in a reception introducing the local exhibit to the public.
Until then, every one of the 60,000 people expected to visit the White House this year for the duration of the season - including candlelight tours after Christmas will get a look at what makes the upper Delaware region worthy of the national park designation.