COLUMBIA — The MU chancellor's residence was decorated with the essence of the holiday season. It smelled of fresh pine and white poinsettias lined the floor.
On Wednesday, a group of eager of first graders from Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School were greeted at the residence by the warm smile of Anne Deaton. The chancellor's wife opened the home to teachers, parents and students from the school for the fifth year in a row.
Beneath their winter attire of hats and scarves, the students sported bright reds and greens. They were given a tour around the first floor of the home and learned about its history. Students were surprised to learn that the chancellor's residence is 144 years old, the oldest building on campus.
Each room had its own flair; the east parlor was elegantly decorated in white and gold, the kitchen with an MU themed tree. But the most exciting room, perhaps for the children, was the sunroom, where ornaments they'd made filled the tree.
"This house was a family house from the beginning," Deaton said. "I knew that children's art would make it sparkle."
Deaton said she knew the chancellor's residence was special when she moved in and wanted to find a way to embrace its warm vibes of family and children.
Lee Elementary — which the chancellor's wife referred to as a magnet for the arts — was asked to participate in a holiday event incorporating the students' artwork into the home's decorations.
"Hearing the children get excited and say, 'I made that' is a special moment,'" she said.
In the past, students have made crafts of stained-glass and papier-mâché. This year, ornaments were displayed.
Lee Elementary art specialist Ann Mehr explained that the ornaments were inspired by books from the Imagination Library, and included clay gingerbread men, pipe cleaner fairies and felt mittens.
"I love that the kids' art finds a welcoming venue," Mehr said. "This house is so special and its location takes their talents to a community level."
After finding their ornaments on the tree, the students sat down to hear Deaton read them a story. Within just a few words, she was joined by the entire first grade class. Reading "The Night Before Christmas" became a group activity.
After a surprise musical performance of "The Three Little Kittens That Lost Their Mittens," complete with sock puppets, the students thanked Deaton and filed out the door with a chocolate-covered treat.
Deaton smiled and said: "It's the highlight of the season seeing their faces bright with hope and joy."