Chicago artists help deck the halls at the White House

Artists mix modern with classic in presidential holiday decor

November 29, 2012

By Rebecca Kruth

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David Lee Csicsko

Chicago artist and designer David Lee Csicsko is known for the whimsical mosaic characters greeting riders at the Belmont "L" station.

For the White House this year, he designed stained-glass medallions that look like wreaths for the East Corridor and 10-foot-tall white wooden trees for the East Garden.

A stained-glass rose he designed hangs in the window of the State Dining Room. While decorating the room, staff members took down a famous painting to avoid scratching it.

“So all of the sudden I looked over at the back of the Lincoln portrait, and this rose I had designed was shining brightly on the back of the Lincoln portrait," Csicsko said. "It was just this incredible connection to artistry and history. It was very, very special.”

Csicsko got the chance to tell First Lady Michelle Obama about all of his designs at the farewell reception.

“One of my friends shouted out that we were from Chicago and I had done the windows," chuckled Csicsko. "She said she was very excited to show the President and her daughters all of the work on the house."

Paper artist Jami Darwin Chiang said seeing her work go from her studio in Chicago to the White House was an amazing experience. Chiang and other artists helped decorate the famed Blue Room Christmas tree with their designs.  

“You meet so many people that are from all different parts of the country that literally join forces to transform the White House in five days,” Chiang said.

Cscisko said seeing everyday people working together in rooms where heads of state normally convene was an enlightening experience.

“It just really felt like this was the people’s house,” he said.