By John Toole
---- — PELHAM — The Southern New Hampshire Festival of Trees will raffle a one-of-a-kind gallery of art this year.
Ornaments created by Pelham High students will adorn one of the trees that go on display this week.
At the invitation of Pelham Community Spirit, which organizes the annual festival for charity, students have spent the last three weeks designing ornaments that will long outlast this holiday season.
“They can enjoy these all year long,” art teacher Mike Norton said of the potential raffle winner. “These don’t have to be stuck in a box.”
His colleague, art teacher Casey Locke, said students have put their hearts and souls into the ornaments.
“These can be kept as a family tradition or given to a relative, say an aunt who comes over,” Locke said. “There is the potential to give a lot of people a lot of enjoyment.”
As many as 100 students have worked on the ornaments. Most are in art classes, but some belong to the art club or are honor society students who love art.
The ornaments aren’t all about Santa.
“We didn’t want a bunch of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman,” Norton said. “We left it wide open to their artistic voice.”
The result is a collection of small, individual pieces of art. They are signed and dated by the students.
“Little masterpieces,” Norton said.
Most, but not all, are paintings on masonite fiberboard.
Freshman Jessica Gerakines estimates she spent four hours on an ornament with two wolves nuzzling in snowfall.
She based it on a picture she admired.
“I thought of the wolves because it was snowy,” Jessica said.
Senior Lauren Austin created decorative balls from yarn, glue and water.
She knows of at least one person eager to win the tree.
“My mom wants this,” Lauren said of the students’ tree.
A couple of the ornaments are the work of an Italian artisan.
Margherita Tibaldo, 17, is an exchange student from Italy whose ornaments include a rose in bloom and an abstract image of an eye.
“I’ve never done these things before,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
The students like the idea the community will see their work at the festival.
“I think this is a very unique opportunity for our artwork,” senior Sophie Rosselli said. “It will be given away and displayed. People will actually want our artwork,.”
Sophie is impressed by the diversity of art.
“There are a lot more besides these,” she said, gesturing toward a table covered with dozens of ornaments.
Norton said the ornaments include ceramics, drawings and sculpture.
“We wanted to cover the whole gamut,” he said.
There are origami cranes — paper art pieces.
Sophie expects the winner will have many years of enjoyment from their ornaments.
“These will last a while,” she said. “Artwork is forever.”
Pelham Community Spirit volunteer Charlene Takesian extended the invitation to the students after seeing some of them winning awards last school year.
“I’m so excited that the kids are doing this,” she said. “This tree will be priceless.”
The fifth Southern New Hampshire Festival of Trees opens Friday and continues through Dec. 7 in Sherburne Hall at Town Hall, 6 Village Green.
Brenda Eaves, president of the civic group, said it is Pelham Community Spirit’s main fundraiser for the year.
The group organizes summer concerts, the Fourth of July celebration, helps troops with care packages, funds scholarships and supports other community causes.
Admission to the festival is $5 for adults, free for children 12 and younger.
A highlight is the raffle, which also includes wreaths and gingerbread houses.
There are performances by local groups, including the St. Patrick’s Church choir and Pelham Memorial School chorus and band, as well as a visit by Santa.
Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7.
For more information, including performance times, visit snhfestivaloftrees.pelhamcommunityspirit.org.