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Greensburg to get aesthetic overhaul

Jacob Tierney
| Monday, July 10, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
A digital rendering shows how the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's 'Portrait of George Washington,' circa 1824, will look on the museum's loading dock.
A digital rendering shows how the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's 'Portrait of George Washington,' circa 1824, will look on the museum's loading dock.

Works of art will start popping up in unusual places in Greensburg soon, beginning with the looming face of a founding father.

The Westmoreland Museum of American Art Monday received unanimous approval from Greensburg City Council for its “Art Happens” project, which will feature replicated images from the city's collection placed around the city.

“Some will be large, some will be small, it depends on the location. We're trying to speak to where the image is going to be at,” said Catena Bergevin, director of advancement for the museum. ”We're working on ideas that are a little more experimental.”

For example, the first piece in the project will be an enlarged copy of Rembrandt Peale's “Portrait of George Washington,” installed on the exterior of the museum itself. The nation's first president will appear to be peeking out from behind a loading dock at passersby on Maple Street, Bergevin said.

The Washington portrait will be installed this week, with more coming throughout the summer, Bergevin said.

The museum is working with property owners to figure out locations for future pieces.

“You might turn a corner and see a small little vignette in a little corner or an alley,” Bergevin said.

The museum is planning a series of “happenings,” parties featuring musicians, poets and other performance artists, to celebrate “Art Happens.” The dates for these have not been set.

Bob Gonze, owner of Blue Sky Sign Company, is working with the museum to install the “Art Happens” images and came up with an idea of his own, using vinyl wraps to cover utility boxes alongside city streets with images from the museum's collection.

“I think it brings a very civil side to inanimate objects that tend to be very ugly,” he said.

The first such image will appear outside the Quatrini Rafferty law firm on East Pittsburgh Street.

“Art Happens” is a way of demystifing the museum, Gonze said.

“I think a lot of people think they won't be able to appreciate art, so they won't go to a museum, but by bringing art out to the sidewalks and the places where people are every day, it can create an appreciation,” he said.

That's the point, said Bergevin. The museum is trying to get out in the community to show people what it has to offer.

“There's a lot of people in Westmoreland County, and some people don't even know there is an art museum,” she said.

The museum hopes to have up to 12 “Art Happens” installations placed around Greensburg, although plans haven't been finalized. These are temporary — they'll be removed after about a year — but Bergevin said she'd like to expand the project to other Westmoreland County communities later.

Greensburg Mayor Rob Bell said he thought the project would bring vibrancy to Greensburg.

“I think it will bring a lot of people into the city of Greensburg to see the different art projects. I think it's really refreshing,” he said.

The Greensburg “Art Happens” project will cost between $25,000 to $30,000, and has been funded by anonymous donations, Bergevin said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or jtierney@tribweb.com.

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