Teen Alison Garner Secures a Niche for Her Grotesque at the National Cathedral
I'm just a C student," says Alison Garner, 13, of Edina, Minn. "Sometimes, when the teachers talk, I'm off in another world, doodling, drawing." Well, the National Geographic Society has decided Alison knows how to doodle dandy. Her sketch of a gap-toothed troll-like creature holding an umbrella has been transformed into an eight-inch-high Indiana limestone "grotesque," to be mounted on Washington's National Cathedral. (Unlike a gargoyle, a grotesque has no water spout.) Fourteen hundred people had entered the society's draw-a-grotesque contest—but only one proposed a figure holding a bumbershoot. "I wanted the umbrella to protect him and the cathedral," says Alison, an eighth grader who hopes to be an artist. Says Richard Feller, a cathedral canon who was one of the judges: "It was an extremely ingenious idea."
When the society called to notify Alison, her mother, Sharon, "thought it was just a pitch to get her to buy a subscription." When Alison was given the good news, she screamed. "Then I started calling all my friends." That was followed by a whirlwind tour of Washington for Alison and her family. "I love the TV cameras and the interviews," she says. "It makes me feel kind of important." But Alison, who wants to return to the capital in 1987 when the grotesque is mounted, is determined not to let success spoil her. She says, "I had Dad check my postcards to my friends to make sure I didn't brag."
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