Due to the scaffolding in place for a yearlong restoration project, you cannot stroll into the Michigan Capitol and gaze up at its majestic dome. However, there is an alternative way to experience it up close.
The 2023 Michigan Capitol Christmas ornament, an annual tradition spanning two decades, pays homage to the dome. This year’s ornament showcases a remarkable 3D design that faithfully replicates the dome’s exterior and interior charm.
Barb Thumudo, the assistant director of Capitol facilities, provided MLive an exclusive preview of this year’s ornament, which will be available to the public starting November 1 for $25, priced at cost.
Thumudo expressed the timeless beauty of this particular ornament, emphasizing her role in designing the ornament since 2015. Each year, she tends to incorporate a theme into the design.
In 2022, the ornament featured a photograph of Heritage Hall, the Capitol’s visitor center that opened the previous autumn. In 2016, it replicated the original lampposts on the Capitol lawn, which were replaced that year.
The 2023 ornament pays tribute to the ongoing dome restoration project, set to conclude next summer. While crews are diligently restoring the dome’s decorative paintwork, the scaffolding obstructs the view for onlookers.
This is where the ornament comes into play, as it features a 3D replica of the dome’s artwork, creating an almost kaleidoscopic effect. Thumudo underlines the uniqueness of Michigan’s Capitol, with its decorative surfaces setting it apart.
The manufacturing of Michigan’s ornaments is entrusted to Beacon Design, a company based in Rhode Island renowned for producing the White House’s annual Christmas ornament as well.
Thumudo collaborates with Beacon by sharing her design concept, along with reference photos and sketches, in early summer. Joshua Risner, the Capitol’s resident artist, also contributes to the design process.
After a series of back-and-forth exchanges involving renderings, the design is typically finalized by September, and Beacon provides Thumudo with a prototype. The finished version only differs in having “MICHIGAN STATE CAPITOL 2023” inscribed along the bottom rim.
Thumudo humorously ponders how to outdo herself each year, but she remains committed to maintaining the tradition and ensuring that the ornaments are unique.
The tradition of purchasing these ornaments has primarily been internal, with buyers often working within the Capitol or in state politics. Pre-order forms are distributed to those employed in the legislature.
Thumudo remarks that many individuals, especially those who have worked in the Capitol, cherish the idea of having a complete collection of ornaments from every year they’ve been associated with the institution.
This year, 1,500 ornaments have been ordered. Each ornament is enclosed in a stamped box and includes an informational card detailing the dome’s history.
Interested individuals can get these ornaments through the Capitol’s online gift shop or by visiting the business office located in the basement of the Capitol building.