Local artist Racket Shreve painted this Christmas ball that is on display on a tree at the White House.

SALEM — The official White House Christmas tree doesn’t have the usual angels and snowflakes this year. Instead, it has a wharf rat and sea gulls from Salem.

One of the ornaments hanging on the 18-foot Fraser fir in the Blue Room is a Christmas ball with scenes from the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. It was painted by local artist Racket Shreve and is one of 347 handcrafted ornaments representing America’s national parks and historic sites.

“I was certainly touched that (they) thought of me,” said Shreve, a local marine artist.

Working on an unusual canvas — a Christmas ball only 6 inches in diameter — Shreve painted the Custom House, Derby light, the West India Goods Store, Pedrick’s storehouse and the merchant ship Friendship. He even snuck in a few local sea creatures.

“I think I put a wharf rat in one corner,” he said.

Letters from the White House went out in the spring asking officials at all of the national parks to choose a local artist to help decorate the Christmas tree as part of President Bush’s National Park Centennial Initiative. Salem officials chose Shreve.

“Racket has done a lot of work in Salem, and we’re all familiar with his style and his ability to capture the essence of the structures here in the park,” said Colleen Bruce, the marine operations manager for the Salem park.

They also selected Ipswich artist Julia Purinton to paint a ball with scenes from the Saugus Iron Works, a park overseen by the Salem superintendent.

There are other ornaments on the White House tree depicting the Rocky Mountain and Grand Canyon national parks, the Statue of Liberty, and the Flight 93 memorial.

It was a challenge, Shreve said, to paint so many historic figures on one Christmas ball. He did most of the work with Sharpie ultrafine-point markers he bought at the CVS store on Essex Street.

Although his paintings hang all over the East Coast, this is Shreve’s debut in the White House. Well, his artistic debut.

“I took the White House tour once,” he said.

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