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Westmoreland museum begins 'building the future'

| Saturday, July 6, 2013, 11:57 p.m.
Lindsay Dill | Tribune-Review
Genevieve Popernack, 2, of Greensburg carries dill for her mother Saturday at the Farmers Market held at Lynch Field in the city .

A ground-breaking ceremony has been scheduled for noon Friday for the expansion of The Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

“This symbolic gesture of turning over dirt begins the process of building the future Westmoreland,” said Judith O'Toole, museum director and chief executive officer.

The museum's temporary site, Westmoreland@30, will open on July 17 in the former Mt. View Interiors Building (Stickley Audi and Co.) at 1000 Village Drive in Unity, museum officials said.

The museum will expand by about 12,500 square feet, including a wing that will be built on the North Maple Avenue side of the building. Extensive landscaping is planned outside the main door.

The columns at the main entrance will be removed and replaced with a concrete scrim to create a covered walkway. A keystone-shaped window will be put into the brick wall facing North Main Street.

New galleries, classrooms, studios and public gathering spaces will be built, with the grand opening planned for 2015.

The North Main Street gift shop will close on Sunday and reopen at the temporary site on July 17, O'Toole said.

The shop will, however, be open during “A Wrecking Ball Event” scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Saurday in the museum, with an after-party that will end at midnight.

The expansion efforts are part of a $38 million campaign, with $18 million for capital, $16 million for a new endowment and $4 million for operating costs over a five-year period, museum officials said.

So far, $17.6 million has been raised or pledged, O'Toole said.

The farmers market that was held on the museum grounds for the past five years moved last week to a site on Donohoe Road in Hempfield to accommodate the expansion, market manager Paul Sarver said.

“It went well,” he said of the first time vendors set up in a parking lot between Donohoe Center and the Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation building.

Sarver said the city sites he and others looked at didn't offer the right combination of visibility and accessibility that vendors wanted.

The market will continue to operate from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays at Lynch Field in Greensburg. It might return to the museum grounds once construction is finished, Sarver said.

“We have a gentleman's agreement. They'd like to have us back,” he said.

Before construction begins, the soldiers and sailors monument outside the museum will be moved.

A benefactor, who wants to remain anonymous, gave most of the roughly $30,000 needed for Raimando Masonry Restoration to move the statue off the museum's grounds, said Lou DeRose, chairman of the citizens' committee that is leading the monument project.

The monument will go into storage until $40,000 to $60,000 can be raised to restore it and erect it in Courthouse Square on Main Street, he said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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