Marquette artist again chosen to create governor’s Christmas ornaments

During a recent U.P. 200 sled dog event, Gov. Rick Snyder dropped in to say hello to Carol Papaleo at her shop in downtown Marquette. Papaleo has designed Christmas ornaments for the governor and first lady two out of the past four Christmas seasons. (Photos courtesy of Carol Papaleo)

By Joseph Zyble
Carol Papaleo, owner of Art U.P. Style Gallery in downtown Marquette, has been a popular artist in Marquette since opening her shop nearly two decades ago. Now, she seems to be gaining prominence at the state capital, too. For the second time in four years, the artist was selected to design and create the governor and first lady’s official holiday ornaments.
“Carol was selected because her hand-painted artwork represents the beauty of Michigan. This specific ornament represents the four ‘Pure Michigan’ seasons – winter, spring, summer and fall — and I’m excited for our guests to receive this beautiful Michigan artwork,” said First Lady Sue Snyder.
The ornaments are distributed by the governor and first lady to their partners in reinventing Michigan, according to Gabriella Abel, a communications specialist for the governor’s office. The ornaments are given as commemorative gifts.
“When the governor asked me to do ornaments the first time, I thought it was an honor,” said Papaleo. “I never thought I would be asked again, and I consider it a double honor.”
This year’s ornaments feature Papaleo’s paintings of some of the governor’s favorite places in the state.
“Each year, the governor finds an artist he likes from Michigan to do ornaments for him. It’s a huge contract and really takes a year to complete,” she said.
Abel noted that approximately 800 ornaments were ordered this year and that no state funds are used to pay for them.
Papaleo created 10 paintings for the project. The paintings are then transferred to glass ornaments, adorned with ribbon hangers, boxed up and delivered. She delivered them to Lansing personally in 2015, but this time, Papaleo opted to meet the governor’s representative halfway, at the Mackinac Bridge, to make the delivery.
Along with her capital clientele, Papaleo said many people seek out her Christmas creations.
“I have a special Christmas series of Marquette that puts a whimsical spin on local landmarks at Christmastime. I do a new one every year, and people like to collect them in the form of an ornament, tiles, prints, cards, etc.,” she said.
Papaleo, who’s most fond of creating with watercolors and acrylic paints, said there is a demand for local art during the holidays and all year round. Along with traditional paintings, she also produces functional art such as mugs, coasters, dishcloths, and potholders.
“My art centers on local scenes around Marquette that invoke memories of those places,” she said. “Each painting I work on is a part of me and, at the time of its conception, is the most important piece.”
Not unlike one’s own children, Papaleo doesn’t favor one artistic creation over the other.
“They each have special qualities that are their own,” she said.
Papaleo is a lifelong resident of Marquette who was born into a family of entrepreneurs. Her grandmother ran a grocery store in North Marquette, and her parents owned The Mail Box Gift Shop, which was located on Third Street in Marquette, for 30 years.
When not painting, Papaleo enjoys the U.P. outdoors, taking vacations, spending time with friends, playing with her puppy and appreciating each day as “a gift.”
“I love Christmas in Marquette and the U.P. winter is magical when combined with Christmas,” she said. “Who would have thought a girl from the swamp, that’s what we called North Marquette in the fifties and sixties, would have the privilege to produce art for a governor?”
Along with Art U.P. Style Gallery, Papaleo owns and operates Grandma’s Corner and Scandinavian Gifts. All three shops are located at 130 W. Washington Street in downtown Marquette.

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