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8th-grader's art on display in Carnegie Museum

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 8:51 p.m.
Mt. Lebanon student Elena Redmond, 14, hands over her replica of the Fort Pitt Blockhouse to Mernie Berger of the Carnegie Women’s Committee at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The Hall of Architecture is filled with seven large Christmas trees, each decorated with a different theme related to the World’s Fair exhibitions. Elena's work will be displayed at one of the trees. Cissy Bowman | Mt. Lebanon School District
In a University of Pittsburgh Molecular Biology Lab, Mars junior Jimmy Ronczka mixes a chemical with a DNA sample on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. He was one of 30 students from the school's AP Biology classes to take part in the workshop. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Mars Area juniors Amanda Alikhani (left) and Emily Ferraro work together to analyze a DNA sample on Tuesday, December 18, 2012, in a University of Pittsburgh Molecular Biology Lab. They were among 32 students from the school's AP Biology classes to take part in the workshop. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

A Mt. Lebanon student's artwork is in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland. It is part of a Christmas tree display in the Hall of Architecture.

Mellon Middle School eighth-grader Elena Redmond spent much of her first semester of school making a 2-foot-tall, foam-and-wood replica of the Fort Pitt Blockhouse for the display, which highlights centuries of architecture and innovation at the World's Fairs.

“I thought there were a lot of adults who could have (made the replica) who were artists, but then I thought, ‘Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had one of our students do it?” said Sarah Cannon, a member of the Pittsburgh Daughters of the American Revolution and board member of the Fort Pitt Society.

She and Mernie Berger of the Carnegie Women's Committee reached out to Cannon's daughter, school board member Josephine Posti, who in turn talked to art teachers and found Elena Redmond.

“I took probably two periods every day to work on it — my break period, my art class, many lunches, and lots of time before and after school,” said Redmond, 14. “We were still working on it for the four seconds just before we took it to Mrs. Berger.”

The Blockhouse — or rather, a full-scale replica of it — was represented in the 1926 Sesquicentennial Fair in Philadelphia as part of the Pittsburgh display.

Working from photographs, brochures and field notes taken by the DAR, Redmond built her own replica from a wooden frame, walls and bricks made of foam board, stones made from hot glue and shingles made from thin strips of balsa wood.

She cut each brick from foam board and painted them to give them a brick-like texture, and she shaped each stone of the foundation from hot glue, despite a balky glue gun.

“I have so many burns from the hot glue,” Redmond said.

To make sure the proportions were right for the pentagonal building, she and Mellon art teacher Phil Hessler took photos for a math teacher, who helped them devise the proper scale and measurements.

After turning the replica over to Berger and the museum, Redmond got to attend the grand opening party for the exhibit in the Hall of Architecture: Seven trees, each standing over 20 feet tall and decorated with a different World's Fair theme, as part of the Carnegie's ongoing exhibit, “Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs, 1851-1939.”

“It was kind of intimidating, especially when I don't think I'd seen my artwork displayed outside of school before,” Redmond said. “It was pretty crazy ... I plan to go back after the Christmas break with my dad.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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