PATERSON, NJ- The Christmas tree outside of City Hall has an extra sparkle this year thanks to the work of local artist Mohamed Khalil and the over 200 kids from all across the city who provided hand-made decorations for the tree.
Khalil, an assistant art curator at the Paterson Museum, came up with the idea to offer local children the chance to decorate their own Christmas tree balls and decided to reach out to over a dozen schools and nonprofits in Paterson, whose students jumped at the chance to show off their creative side.
Khalil estimates that of the 400 balls he hung by hand on the tree, about 275 were designed by Paterson kids.
The tree was lit on December 2nd in front of a large crowd gathered outside of City Hall. “The lighting night was beautiful, and I was very humbled to do something for this beautiful city.”
Khalil was especially excited that the city and Mayor Jane Williams-Warren had allowed him to showcase Paterson’s diversity and inclusiveness. “For a Muslim to be able to decorate the Christmas tree, it was really cool to show that we’re all the same.”
Originally from Alexandria, Egypt, Khalil moved to Paterson 14 years ago after attending art school in Europe. He says he fell in love with the city because of its history and art. He is now attending Columbia Teacher’s College in order to get his second Master’s Degree in Art Education.
He says he first came up with the idea for the tree project in 2008 when he was invited to the White House, after designing an ornament for then First Lady Laura Bush. A few years ago, he provided a similar installation in Paterson, but hadn’t re-attempted it until he met the Williams-Warren and asked if he could once again decorate the tree.
Khalil hopes that the city will allow him to continue this project in future years, so that hundreds of more children can have the same opportunity.