Oblock students commemorate Tree of Life victims in art project
Sometimes tragedy can inspire an artistic vision.
Such was the case for Plum eighth-graders Jade Turner, Bailey Baumgartner and Emily Berrott.
The Oblock Junior High trio recently finished an art project in remembrance of the 11 people fatally shot Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
Robert Bowers, 46, of Baldwin was charged with their murders along with multiple other offenses in connection with the massacre.
“Since this happened so close to us we thought we should do it,” Jade said about the project.
Emily said they took a black sharpie and traced the names of the victims on pieces of white canvas and placed the squares around a wooden cutout of the tree design posted on the synagogue. A wooden Star of David sits at the bottom of the tree with a candle on top of it.
A flower was placed on the left bottom corner of the larger canvas.
Students mixed vinegar and peroxide in a beaker with copper pipe pieces to create a wood stain.
The project took about five weeks to complete and was enclosed in a 30-by-38-inch recycled mirror frame.
Art teacher Bill DePew said his pupils did tremendous work and made a fitting tribute to be installed in the school’s cafe.
“It’s good for them to make a connection between how art can be something for healing and remembrance,” DePew said. “All the projects, especially the big ones, have meaning. We’ll put it somewhere safe.”
Jade is part of her grade’s art club, which works on various projects Tuesday and Thursday mornings during the week’s activity period or tier time.
DePew oversees the eighth-graders and teacher Amanda Durick sponsors the seventh-grade club.
“During that time, if somebody needs extra help (in a subject) they can get extra help, but then there’s other clubs,” DePew explained.
Eighth-graders plan to paint a mural in Assistant Principal Maria Fajt’s office for their club project.
Club President Connie McCarthy said the mural features a girl picking an apple and a boy on a tire swing among other playful images. They are still in the sketching phase.
DePew would prep the office walls when the project is ready. Students then place the sketches against the wall, trace and paint them.
“It’s fun because we all like art and relate to each other,” she said. “Things you don’t get to work on in art (class) you get to work on in art club.”
Between 15 and 16 eighth-graders and 53 seventh-graders are in their respective clubs.
Durick said this year’s theme is “Going to the Movies.”
Students design and create cardboard and plaster sculptures based on concession items such as popcorn and soda dispensers.
“We wanted a common theme to tie all the projects together and to start getting ideas so we’re not all over the place,” Durick said. “I thought the movie theme would work because you can do a lot of different things. Depending on how much time we have we could do things about certain movies. There’s a lot of directions you could go in.”
Student Daniel Hauck selected probably the most objects for a movie, its player.
He’s on his third prototype of a 16 mm projector. The plan is to have a movie reel and motor installed inside a red and black box.
“I wanted to contribute to the theme,” he said. “I’ve worked on a lot of motors, so I thought it’d be a good idea to make a projector and actually make it work. It’s coming along pretty good.”
Daniel said he has not figured out what movie he wants to show if he can get his project operational.
Seventh-grade club President Madilyn Shingle said she’s excited to see everyone’s finished project at the May art show. Her contribution is a light-up drink dispenser.
“It’s really cool because I have a lot of friends that do art,” she said. “Everybody has their own style. I guess it’s experimental.”
The art clubs are open year-round and not every student participates both days of the week.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.
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