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Jerry Davich: NWI native designs White House holiday decorations

Hammond native David Lee Csicsko is world-class mosaic designer/artist. | Phoprovided~Sun-Times Media

Hammond native David Lee Csicsko is a world-class mosaic designer/artist. | Photo provided~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:08AM



David Lee Csicsko has always dreamed of using his artistic talents on a larger canvas, so to speak. I doubt he ever dreamed it would be the White House.

The 55-year-old Hammond native recently completed his biggest project to date — designing parts of the massive holiday display around President Obama’s residence.

“I feel like I’ve been preparing for this project all my life,” Csicsko told me from his art studio, near the Art Institute of Chicago.

The 1975 Hammond Morton graduate, who routinely returns to the region to visit family, designed and helped install 300 large stained-glass ornaments inside the White House as well as 10-foot-tall white Christmas trees in First Lady Michelle Obama’s garden.

He earned such a high-profile job after creating stained-glass mosaics for the chapel inside the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Gabrielle Martinez, event planner and owner of the AgencyEA marketing firm, saw Csicsko’s chapel artwork and contacted him for the White House project.

“You asked the right guy,” he thought to himself.

He visited the White House in the summer, studied its visual details, took photographs and then began creating his vision of how to decorate the country’s most famous home.

“I asked myself, ‘What is appropriate for the White House?’ ” he said.

He melted together traditional holiday colors with bold and contemporary twists, using his computer to capture his mind’s vision of classic Americana.

For the building’s East Garden, he designed white wooden trees, inspired by similarly styled trees he designed in 2004 for the Chicago Cultural Center’s “Dance Along Nutcracker” event.

Since his younger years growing up in Northwest Indiana, Csicsko has had a fascination for American folk art and early American traditional imagery. He also studied wood-carved eagles, historic quilts and other national symbols.

What better canvas to showcase this patriotic tapestry than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C.?

He began working on his designs in late June, including large 4 feet in diameter stained-glass window wreath-like medallions for the building’s famed East Corridor. The art-glass pieces pay tribute to great American designers Louis Comfort Tiffany, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, he explained.

The State Dining Room is adorned with various-size planter boxes made of white-painted wood and ceramic tiles, all designed by Csicsko.

He used the symbol of welcome in Colonial America — the pineapple — as a launching point. One of the stained-glass windows features a design of four pineapples.

The final products of all his designs were constructed by artisans from across the country — ceramics from Oregon, a needlepoint pillow from Ohio, windows from Chicago, completed by Thanksgiving and driven to the White House. There, all designs were presented and approved by the First Lady, who Csicsko later met at a reception.

Csicsko is best known in the Chicago area for his mosaics at the Belmont Avenue Red/Purple/Brown Line station, in addition to his stained-glass artwork at Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University Nursing School, and the aforementioned Children’s Hospital.

In this region, his artwork graces St. Maria Goretti Church in Dyer and the Geminus Corp. headquarters in Merrillville, where a towering 30-foot mosaic six-face totem cheerfully greets visitors.

“I had high hopes when I was a kid growing up in Hammond, and I’ve been very fortunate,” he said modestly.

Fortunate indeed, I say. Add his name to the long list of region natives whose dream was born here and later blossomed into national recognition and celebrity.

To view Csicsko’s artwork, to contact him, or to simply be inspired, visit his website at www.csicsko.com or call him at (773) 332-0077.

Another mass shooting

In light of Friday’s massacre at a Connecticut grade school, I feel compelled to weigh in on yet another mass-shooting tragedy in this country.

The sad truth is that no matter how many locks or precautions we put in schools, if a killing-minded nut-job wants to get inside and cause mayhem, he (or she) can do so pretty easily. I routinely visit schools and I could routinely enter them without much of a problem.

The bigger picture is that our country faces something much more dangerous than a “fiscal cliff.” We are also facing a psychological cliff of systemic proportions, reflected by the not-so-shocking regularity of such mass-shooting incidents like the one in Connecticut.

Despite pleas for either more guns, more locks or more security, such measures offer us only the illusion of public safety. Not the public safety of our kids and us.

Find more of Jerry’s writings on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, and jerrydavich.wordpress.com.



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