National Treasure

By Kevin Denke
Posted 1/6/09

Elise Livadney has always had a passion for art. “Since I could hold a pencil,” she says with a laugh. But the 23-year-old Brighton resident’s abilities took her to new heights this …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

National Treasure


Elise Livadney has always had a passion for art.

“Since I could hold a pencil,” she says with a laugh.

But the 23-year-old Brighton resident’s abilities took her to new heights this Christmas – namely Washington, D.C.

Livadney was one of 369 artists across the country and one of only nine from Colorado asked to design ornaments to adorn the 18 ½-foot tall Fraser Fir tree in the Blue Room of the White House.

Colorado’s two senators and seven congressional representatives were asked to select artists to represent the state with the design of ornaments for the tree. When the office of Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s office called the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, a staff member familiar with Livadney’s work, suggested she would be perfect for the task.

She found out she was selected in June, and in July a box came to Livadney’s Brighton home with an early Christmas present – a blank, grape-fruit-sized globe that Livadney needed to bring to life with a design indicative of not only her home state but First Lady Laura Bush’s theme of “A Red, White and Blue Christmas.”

Livadney, an admitted perfectionist, spent two months crafting the design for the ornament. She sneaked peeks at the White House web site to get an idea of the designs of ornaments in past years. The ornament presented a number of challenges for Livadney. First, her artistic interests have always skewed toward 3-D computer animation and now illustration. The ornament required her to pre-sketch a design by hand, meticulously draw it on to the globe and then paint it. And there was that whole thing about it hanging on a tree in the White House, too.

“It’s so intimidating to think this is going to be in the White House, this is going to last forever,” she said. She said she always kept in mind that the ornament should represent what Colorado means to her. The final design is a colorful montage of the states four seasons – golden Aspen trees, rich blue skies, horses running freely on the plains – all melding together in a circular image.

But come August, thanks in large part, she says, to the support of her family who were understanding of her frazzled nerves, she hand-delivered her ornament to Perlmutter’s Lakewood office – another stop on its trip to the White House.

Not as easy it sounds. Livadney said artists constantly hone and refine their skills. They grow and develop much like their work. There came a point where she needed to let the ornament go and realize she had done the best she could.

“It is what it is,” she said.

She caught up with her ornament right after Thanksgiving when Livadney, her mother and sister, traveled to Washington D.C. for a special ceremony. Elise’s only other trip to the nation’s capitol came when she was 3, so this time she soaked in the sights.

She still marvels at stepping inside in the White House for the first time.

“It’s so grand,” she said.

The special ceremony for the select group of artists included a dining hall stocked with food and a brief appearance by the First Lady. Then the artists crowded into the Blue Room, all in search of their ornament. Elise’s mom found her daughter’s hanging towards the bottom of the tree.

“Unreal” is how Elise explains of her seeing piece of art on display with the works of so many other artists, both young and old.

She spent five days in Washington, D.C. Then she came back home and took on a less-glamorous chore – her college finals.

Elise, who was home-schooled for much of her education, credits her parents for fostering her love of art. Her dad often took her to art stores and her mom enrolled her in an art class when she was 13. Her interest in 3-D animation came from a cousin who worked for Disney and she still dreams of working for a production company such as Pixar. But, if that doesn’t work out, she thinks about illustrating children’s books.

She says this latest experience has only stoked an already deep-burning passion for art.

Contact MetroWest Editor Kevin Denke at or 303-659-2522, ext. 225. Visit his daily blog at


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.