North Allegheny student's award-winning painting part of national tour

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 3:29 p.m.

A North Allegheny student's artistic interpretation of a boys bathroom is part of a national tour this year.

Emma Munson, 18, of McCandless, earned a national gold medal in the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program for her acrylic painting “The Room.”

“I was walking around the school and thought it would be kind of fun to paint the boys room,” said Munson, who created the piece for a class assignment. “The idea came out of the blue. Everyone had familiar spaces, but this was a space where we're not allowed to go.”

The piece is being featured in an exhibition — ART.WRITE.NOW. — which is taking place in four cities this school year: Detroit; Virginia Beach, Va.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Fort Worth, Texas.

Students in grades seven to 12 submit artwork and writing for the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program, which is judged on originality and technical skill. Munson first entered her piece in a regional competition last year.

An exhibition of works in this year's regional competition will be on display next month at La Roche College in McCandless.

Artists who earn a Gold Key — the highest honor in the regional competitions — have their work submitted for national judging.

Munson was one of 63 North Allegheny students to be awarded a regional Gold Key last year.

The nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists & Writers administers the awards, which have recognized more than 13 million students since 1923.

For Munson's assignment, the artwork needed to have depth. “Interior Spaces or Unusual Places” was an exercise in perspective.

It could have been a room or a tunnel, said her teacher, Frances Hawbaker.

Munson needed the custodian's permission to get inside the bathroom. She worked to capture the scene through sketches and photos.

“I make more ordinary things more interesting,” Munson said. “I'm not interested in realism. I paint what I see, not what's there.”

North Allegheny Senior High School art teacher Frances Hawbaker had to persuade Munson to enter the painting in the contest.

“She (Munson) is multifaceted, not only in the visual arts but also in plays and the musical,” Hawbaker said. “Everything about her is very creative.”

While art is represented in the Munson family — a great-uncle was an artist — the teenager credits art teachers, such as Sarah LeDonne at Ingomar Middle School and Hawbaker for being strong instructors.

“Emma shows an interest in the arts and an eagerness to do a lot more experimenting,” Hawbaker said. “She's capable of using different kinds of media and doing new things. She's multifaceted, which is great.”

As she selects a college, Munson, an NA senior, plans to stay involved in art no matter what major she pursues.

“I'll try for art in college and see what happens,” she said. “I live by the day and see where it takes me.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-772-6353.

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