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Vice Presidential Plate Project

In 2016 Indiana WOCP president Ellen Wilson-Pruitt had an idea to propose a china painting project to Washington, DC. The Indiana painters already had established a relationship with Second Lady Karen Pence. The artists had done 2 other public projects previously. They painted a 30 place setting and 30 serving piece set for the Indiana Governor’s mansion with Indiana Wildflowers during the O’Bannon administration. Mrs. Pence loved the china so much when she was Indiana First Lady she approached the painters again about painting 150 presentation bowls with the Indiana state flower the peony for her First Ladies Charitable Foundation.

When Mrs. Pence became Second Lady, Ellen contacted her and offered their artistic talents to the nation. The Second Lady is herself an artist and the role of art therapy in the recovery of hospital patients is a cause dear to her heart. Mrs. Pence readily accepted the offer and the Vice Presidential Plate Project began. Thirty-nine artists painted 100 reception dessert plates with the 50 state flowers. These plates will remain in the permanent china collection and are the property of The Vice President’s Residential Foundation. The Foundation maintains all the collections and furnishings of the Vice President Residence. The artists were juried in by the public by voting on a china painting exhibit at the 2017 Indiana State Fair. Each artist painted 2 identical plates (with a few artists painting more than one set). The plates being used are companion pattern plates to the current Vice Presidential service made by Lenox. This service was ordered during the Biden administration. Lenox produced a special decal for the back of these flower plates to commemorate the project. Wilson-Pruitt gathered the flower images and sized them to fit the plates. The artists drew the states out of a hat so no one was assigned a particular state. Each state was just as important as the next.

In March a public preview was held in Indiana to view the plates before going to Washington. This preview was attended by well over 200 people. The artists were invited to a special reception held in their honor at the Vice President’s Residence on April 23. One of the artists volunteered to transport the plates to DC. A few artists traveled independently but the majority of the artists and guests boarded a charter coach to make the 12 hour trip to the nation’s capital. The artists were treated to a wonderful celebration of their efforts by Mrs. Pence and her staff complete with meeting the Vice President. The plates will be used at receptions at the residence and be viewed by visiting dignitaries from all over the world.

Over the course of the project there was media coverage from TV, radio and various newspapers. Many of the artists were featured in articles in their local newspapers. The project also received official press releases from The White House as well as being mentioned in USA Today and The Washington Post. The youngest artist participating is 13 and the oldest is 90 years old. This illustrates that china painting is an art form that can be shared from generation to generation. The project required many months of work and organization but it was well worth it. It is wonderful to allow our artists to have the opportunity to have a piece of their work in such a prominent venue. These plates will remain forever as part of our nation’s collections and we hope to give testament to the art of china painting and creation of an art of permanence and the memory this project provided the artists will last for the rest of their lives.

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