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Vatican OKs exhibit ornament
By WILLIAM KERNS A-J Entertainment Editor

Vatican officials have approved Nelda Laney's design of a Christmas ornament commemorating the exhibit of Vatican art that will be displayed June 1 through Sept. 15, 2002, at the Museum of Texas Tech.

It is the first time that an ornament has been approved in connection with any Vatican art exhibit in the United States or abroad.

The ornament — made of 24-carat gold-plated brass and depicting the flags of the Vatican City State, Texas, United States and Mexico — can be purchased, beginning Aug. 9, at Malouf's, Anderson Brothers Jewelers and Brother John's Bookstore.

The Vatican ornament also can be ordered online at www.vaticanornament.com

It is priced at $20. All profits will be used to support the Vatican Exhibit 2002 Foundation and the exhibit in Lubbock.

Laney has been applauded for designs of intricate holiday ornaments. The wife of Texas Speaker of the House Pete Laney, she has designed a different ornament each year since 1995 to be sold to raise funds solely for preservation costs at the state capitol.

Her first ornament attracted 14,000 buyers, but interest soon mushroomed.

''Last year we had to order 60,000,'' she said during a Lubbock visit Thursday.

She has agreed to design only two ornaments outside of her capitol preservation project, one for M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston and the other for Lubbock's exhibit of frescoes from the Vatican museums.

Laney did not study art formally. She describes herself with a laugh as ''just an old schoolteacher.''

Almost two years ago, Father Malcolm Neyland, the local pastor responsible for obtaining the Vatican exhibit, approached Laney after she spoke at a Rotary meeting in Lubbock.

''He liked my state exhibits,,'' she recalled, ''and asked if I would be willing to design one that could raise funds for this art exhibit in Lubbock.''

Her work had to be approved by officials with the Vatican, who suggested only a change in wording.

The ornament now has the words Medieval Frescoes beneath the flags and is anchored with Lubbock, Texas 2002.

Neyland said 5,000 Vatican ornaments will be available.

Those wanting to view or purchase Laney's state ornaments can do so at www.texascapitolgiftshop.com

William Kerns can be contacted at 766-8712 or wkerns@lubbockonline.com

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