December 25, 2023 - Merry Christmas!
Shelby County Heroes Featured on State Museum Christmas Tree
ABOVE: The Shanae Dees-designed Shelby County ornament on display at the Indiana State Museum; the tree featuring ornaments from Indiana counties; and the artist’s design concept for the Shelby County ornament.
by KRISTIAAN RAWLINGS
Shelby County’s ghosts of Christmas past, present and future are simultaneously on display at the Indiana State Museum this year thanks to a locally designed ornament. The museum’s 25-foot tree, placed annually since 2008, features an ornament from each of the state’s 92 counties. Shelby County is represented by one of 60 new ornaments this year, and it is fortuitously placed thigh-high so viewers can appreciate its three-dimensional nature. The Shanae Dees-designed ornament also stands out because of what it does not include: county landmarks and historic sites.
“While there is nothing wrong or uninteresting about these concepts, I felt a lack of humanity that is attached to our Midwestern counties,” Dees, art teacher at Shelbyville Middle School, said. She instead focused on Shelby County pioneers, broadly defined: William “Bill” Garrett, Warren “Wilbur” Shaw, William “Roland” Stine and Marian McFadden.
Mark Ruschman, the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites’ senior curator of art and culture, noted in a statement that ornament designers included the winner of this year’s Hoosier Art Salon competition and accomplished artists, such as Dees. The Shelby County native holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Herron School of Art and Design.
“It’s not that there aren’t plenty of artists out there,” Ruschman said. “It’s that this project requires a certain skillset, and sometimes you have to have a few different conversations to figure out whether this is going to work.”
Dees’s background in ceramics was a natural fit. While pondering local historical figures, it occurred to her that the ornament should have an “unfolding experience,” she said, with subtle details to draw the viewer in.
“Three-dimensional art has always been my stronger wheelhouse. I enjoy the sculptural and interactive process with the material,” she said. “The challenging aspect of the book becoming an ornament is the fact that once it is opened and hanging on the tree, the ‘back side’ of the accordion book as well as both covers are no longer visible to the public.”
The work includes muted, watercolor details contrasting with the weathered look of black and white portraits and the silhouette of a little girl representing the youth of Shelby County who will influence the future.
The end product was exactly the intention of state museum officials.
“We’re the Indiana State Museum; we’re not the Indianapolis State Museum, so we want to have people from Indiana come in to enjoy the holiday season and have their county represented on this tree just like they’re represented on the building’s exterior with the 92 sculptures,” Vice President of Experience Adam DeKemper said in a statement.
This Day in Shelby County History
2013: Three members of the Mary Mott Green chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Shelby County were recognized for 50 years of service. They were Harriet Munger, Carolyn Cortelyou and Georgiann Brinson. All three had joined the society in 1963. “There were 75 members (in the local chapter) when I first joined,” Munger, 91, said. “People seemed to have more time then to be involved. Today so many of them work jobs.” Society membership in 2013 was 31, including new members Savanna Bannister, Melaney Brockman and Rachelle Pettit.
2003: Shelbyville Middle School sixth grade teachers Paul Ashbrook and Michelle Rand and their students raised $1,313 for the local Salvation Army. The money was raised from a base of $100 given to classes involved in the project. The $100 originated from Hope Ride, an annual bicycle tour in Hope organized by Ashbrook. Students Caitlin Moore, Elizabeth Fleming, Nick Cooper and Jessica Cossairt presented the donation to Capt. Alfveby at the Salvation Army.
1993: The Shelbyville Boys Club recognized league and tourney champions at the conclusion of the basketball season. The Saints won the age 9 and 10 basketball league with a 10-1 record. Members of the team were James Palmer, Darren Thomas, Brian Newbold, Chris Rexroat, Eric Thurston, John Karnes and Brad Guidi. Coaches were Bob Guidi, Charles Thurston and Josh Thurston. The Crows were runners-up with a 9-2 record. Members of the team were Clinton Coffey, Joe Handlon, Eric Jones, Jon Hargrove, Adam Kuhn, Josh Walton, Brian Jones, Ryan Hauk, Phillip Stout and Jacob Ratliff. Coaches were Chuck Walton, Phil Stout and Rick Handlon.
1983: The tree topper on The Shelbyville News’ office Christmas tree was a “Phreddie Phenol” doll, a reference to a character made famous by News’ cartoonist Dee Bonner regarding Shelbyville’s water problems. “Some News staff members said they hope the water problem will be solved by next Christmas so, if for no other reason, the office tree can be topped with a ‘normal’ decoration,” The News said.
Bill and Mary Kay Hart once again displayed their 20-foot tall Christmas tree. The tall tree tradition started after they had added an addition to their house with a high ceiling. Then, their children, Jeff and Ann, who were in high school, would invite friends over to a tree decorating party, complete with popcorn and soft drinks. The 1983 edition was a 40-year-old short needle fur from Michigan. The tree, rapped in a net, was hauled from Zionsville in a Bausback truck. Hart was an owner of Bausback Corp. It took three men over three hours to place the tree in a stand and position it in the Hart’s home. Mrs. Hart estimated there were 3,500 lights on the tree. Ornaments were not a problem. Mrs. Hart had many from children she had taught at St. Joseph Catholic School.
1973: Loper Brownie Troop girls visited the Shelby County Home to present gifts they made for the elderly residents. Adult organizers of the trip were Mrs. Knarr, Mrs. Tripp and Mrs. Moore.
The Shelbyville High School Sunshine Society recently put on a show at the Triangle School. Carols were sung by Mary Weissenberger, Karen LeClere, Sheryl Murnan, Ginny Hall, Christi Lutes, Christi Orem and Georgia Marshall.
1963: First prize in the annual Jaycee Christmas lighting decorating contest was givn to Carl Kremer, 532 Tom VanArden Drive. He was a back-to-back winner. In addition to lights in the evergreen trees in front of the home, four trees were surrounded by neon tubing. The words “Noel” and “Merry Christmas” were also spelled out in lights.
1953: The Salvation Army distributed 44 food baskets to needy families. They also gave out donated toys that had been reconditioned by Shelbyville firemen. Those on the organizing committee were Russ Gross, Donald Gordon, Lt. Robert Baize, H.W.D. Brinson and Bob Martin.
1943: To provide safe sledding for children, blocks of streets were barred to regular vehicle traffic by order of Mayor Jim Pierce. The “kids’ zone” consisted of the Thomas A. Hendricks school block, and no auto traffic was permitted on South, Taylor, Shelby or Miller streets where they paralleled the building.
1933: Approximately 1,500 children participated in the city’s Christmas program, held at the National Guard Armory. The program was sponsored by Kappa Kappa Sigma sorority and local donors. The Shelbyville Republican, The Strand and The Alhambra donated 500 sacks of candy for distribution. The program included a flute solo from Berneda Amos, who was accompanied on the piano by Martha Ann Limpus. Residents of the Gordon Children’s Home were treated to a party at the Golden Glow Annex on West Hendricks St.
1923: Approximately 800 local children gathered at the city building for the Christmas program. “With smiles, laughter and whoops, the children gathered about old Santa eager to take his hand, and to thank him, in many instances, for his remembrance of them,” The Republican said. Each child received two bags, one containing nuts and candy, the other holding two apples, an orange and a banana. Residents of Gordon Children’s Home participated in the festivities, then returned for another Christmas program and a baked chicken dinner at their home. They then enjoyed ice cream and cake courtesy of local families who donated. Donors also provided a noon meal for residents at the county farm.