published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

86-year-old Rhea County artist features landmarks on state ornament

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    Artist Nell Moretz, 86, displays the hand-painted ornament with the river and bluffs in Rhea County along with the historic courthouse, home of the Scopes Trial 1925.
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DAYTON, Tenn. -- For 86-year-old Rhea County artist Nell Moretz, painting her area's landscape on a Christmas ornament for the governor's residence is a highlight of her long career.

"I feel very honored" knowing that guests at the home will view her artistry, Moretz said.

First lady Crissy Haslam sent invitations to artists in each of Tennessee's 95 counties to take part in creating the 2012 holiday decorations at the Nashville residence.

Haslam said in the letter that one of her official duties is to welcome the holidays.

"This year I would like to incorporate decorations that symbolize each county in Tennessee," she wrote.

Each county artist received a 5-inch gold ornament to decorate.

Rachel Lundeen, a member of the first lady's staff, said the gold ornament created a "classic backdrop" for the county representations.

On her ornament, Moretz highlighted the historic Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton that hosted the Scopes Trial in 1925. Her design included the courthouse clock and bell tower, along with the veterans memorial wall on the front walkway. The ornament's opposite side is a depiction of the Tennessee River and its bluffs.

"I don't know anything better than that," Moretz said about what she chose to depict on her ornament.

Moretz, who has painted for more than 64 years, creates landscapes and wildlife artwork from her downtown Dayton studio at ArtCrafters.

Bledsoe County artist Sherry Paglan, 68, said she chose her county's courthouse and Cabin Fever, a log cabin for crafters, to detail on her ornament.

Marie Haas in Polk County said she chose the rivers and forests that are the "playground" of her area.

Lundeen said all the ornaments constituted a "state treasure" and that their use might extend into the future for other generations to enjoy.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.

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