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South Dakota's Landscape Influenced USD Art Professor Who Created State's Ornaments for White House Tree

Image National Christmas Tree Ornament South Dakota's ornament for the National Christmas Tree, designed by USD art professor Young Ae Kim

VERMILLION, S.D. — The National Park Foundation chose a University of South Dakota art professor to create South Dakota’s ornaments for this year's National Christmas Tree display at the White House.

Young Ae Kim, an associate professor of graphic design at USD, used laser-cutting technology to create 12 identical paper sculpture ornaments. She said her inspiration was South Dakota’s treasures, trees and vast open spaces. Kim grew up in Seoul, South Korea, with few natural surroundings, moved to South Dakota in 2008 and fell in love with the natural beauty of the state's ever-changing landscape.

South Dakota’s national parks include Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Wind Cave National Park, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and Missouri National Recreational River.

“It is an honor to be selected because South Dakota has become a new and lovely experience from where I grew up,” she said. “This project gave me the opportunity to share a part of my journey and design with everyone who sees it in Washington, D.C.”

Kim joins local artists from each state, territory and the District of Columbia in designing ornaments for the National Christmas Tree. The designs were inspired by America’s national parks and its programs that will pay tribute to the upcoming National Park Service’s centennial in 2016. The 93rd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting will be Thursday, Dec. 3.


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News