By Meredith Rigsby News Editor
ASHLAND — After impending hurricane Joaquin caused Alvaro and Caroline Coronado to cancel their travel plans, they decided, 48 hours before the deadline, to design and create a Christmas ornament that represents the Town of Ashland and would compete with other entries for a coveted spot on the governor’s holiday tree.The Town of Ashland was previously informed by the Virginia Municipal League (VML) that the theme for ornaments to be placed on the 2015 governor’s holiday tree was “Localities of the Commonwealth.” The Ashland Main Street Association (AMSA) then took over as facilitator of the selection process, set up guidelines for the ornament according to those provided by the VML, and launched the competition.Artists and residents who wanted to participate in the competition were asked to make a Christmas ornament that represented the Ashland community and its spirit.Submissions were due by Oct. 4 and a decision was made by a panel of judges by Oct. 7, according to Caroline Coronado.
After the judges had made their decision, Nancy Cozart, who acted as the point person for the process, contacted the Coronados to let them know the ornament they created, a sterling silver and Austrian Swarovski crystal replica of the Ashland Theater, had been selected to represent Ashland on the governor’s holiday tree.
“I probably would have said work quickly in a base metal, but, for Alvaro, it was the Governor’s Mansion, sterling silver and that’s it,” said Caroline Coronado. “It was, you know, the elevation, in any design we match use with materials. … The elements and quality were as important as the aesthetics. It wasn’t about creating an illusion; it was about quality, just like Ashland.”
Because their decision to create an ornament was last minute, the Coronados worked literally around the clock, sleeping for only about two hours during the two days it took to design and construct the piece.
Alvaro made the ornament entirely from scratch, melting bars of silver, cutting out metal pieces by hand, and putting together wires to secure it.
Caroline and Alvaro Coronado made it to Gallery Flux, where ornaments were submitted, a mere 10 minutes before the deadline cutoff.
“We ran out of here literally … we grabbed the umbrella, it was pouring, it was windy and we actually thought it would be faster if we just ran down to Gallery Flux,” Caroline Coronado said. … “It was kind of funny because we were running down the street and we both took the umbrella and turned face on to the theater, looked up on it and we go ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ We turned around and ran the rest of the way.”
When the Coronados learned that their ornament design has been selected to represent Ashland on the governor’s holiday tree they were both surprised and honored.
“We know almost every artist in Ashland and Hanover [County] and we know the caliber of talent that’s out there,” Caroline Coronado said.
When brainstorming ideas for their ornament concept, Alvaro and Caroline chose to depict the Ashland Theater because it seems to always be at the center of activities, festivals and people’s conversations in town.
“There’s no reason to create something when there are so many beautiful things that you can use in the town to represent the town,” Alvaro Coronado said.
Now that their ornament has been sent to the Governor’s Mansion, the Coronados are working, order-by-order, on an adaptation version of the decoration.
“We did not have a plan for making a version that people would want to purchase, but, in the promotion, in the press releases with regard to the one on the Governor’s Mansion, people said ‘I want one, I want one, how do I get one, I want one,’ ” Caroline Coronado said.
The adaptation version of the ornament is a replica of the original but is made with different materials in an effort to make it more affordable to Ashland residents who would like to purchase one.
“I am doing the same amount of labor eight to 10 hours to make one; again, I don’t stamp or mold, everything is cut by hand, everything is put together,” Alvaro Coronado said. “So it is the same kind of labor. But then the materials, I change the materials, I change the texture.”
The adaptation version of the ornament is available for $275 and the Coronados plan to donate $25 of the proceeds from the sale of each ornament toward a fundraising event for the Ashland Theater Foundation.
“Although it’s called an ornament because it’s an adaptation of the ornament of the governor’s tree ornament, it really, it stands alone, it’s a piece of art, it’s a sculpture, and it physically stands alone,” Caroline Coronado said.
There is an adaptation version of the governor’s holiday tree ornament on display at the Ashland Theater and Gallery Flux, and both locations accept orders for the adaptation.
There are no definite plans for the original ornament once it is returned to the Coronados at the close of the holiday season, but the couple said they have a few different ideas in mind, including offering it as an auction item at a town fundraising event.
“I think you have a social responsibility — Alvaro and I both agree on this — that there’s a social responsibility to the community when you use something that’s in their likeness, their image; you’re representing them,” Caroline Coronado said. “So I think we are open to ideas about that.”
The Coronados own and operate a jewelry store, Alvaro Coronado Inc. in Ashland.