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New store, displays allow center's clients to display pride in their art

| Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

John W. Edwards III has never heard the sound a bowling pin makes when it's struck by a ball, but he's got definite ideas on how one should look.

A packet of glue, some rhinestones and a tiny pair of toy rubber boots are all Edwards needs to transform a plain white pin that was destined for a scrap heap into a likeness of the kindhearted physician who guided him through childhood ow-ies and illnesses.

"He was a good doctor," says Edwards, gently gliding his hand across profile of his sculpture. "He meant a lot to me."

Edwards, 54, lives at the Milestone Center in Wilkinsburg. It's here each week, in the center's day treatment and deaf services program, where dozens of people with disabilities create sculptures and colorful artworks from donated bowling pins.

A few months ago, these pins were getting mowed down by families and weekend warriors in funny shoes on bowling nights in North Versailles.

Now, they're canvases in the hands of Milestone's clients. And, with time, they will be molded into the shapes of goldfish, cartoon characters, gypsies, even King Tut statuettes.

The completed sculptures will be displayed at The Art Market in Lawrenceville.

"Every artist enjoys having their work ... seen by other art lovers," says art-therapist and instructor Stefanie Sigrist. "These are moments when they can be proud of what they do."

Sigrist gathered 100 pins last summer from the New Great Valley Lanes bowling alley in North Versailles for the artists. The fabric used to make costumes for the pins comes from donations and discarded teddy bears and other stuffed animals.

One of Edwards' earliest memories was of visits to the doctor's office when he was 7. His mother was three months pregnant with him when she came down with German measles. He was born deaf.

His doctor's soothing bedside manner comforted Edwards, even on days when he needed shots. He paid homage to the physician by molding a pin in his image.

Edwards toiled over the details, from the Popsicle-stick chair and aluminum-foil stethoscope to the pipe-cleaner hands and rhinestone eyes and teeth.

"I wasn't scared. He didn't hurt me," says Edwards. "I always appreciated that about him."

Edwards also sketches -- daisies, roses carnation and baby's breath flowers on paper with colored pencils. He hopes to frame and sell his art work.

Some Milestone artwork already is on display at various offices, including the Federal District Courthouse, Downtown. Some has been sold.

One of Linda Lou Franklin's pieces, a giraffe, has gotten some notice at the courthouse, but she wants more eyes to behold her work.

Franklin, who is deaf, is hoping her latest sculptures -- of a chubby panda bear cradling its cub -- can grab the interest of some art lover. The piece is fashioned from paper mache, and uses the pin as its base.

"Pandas are big and the pin is skinny, I know. I just make it different," says Franklin, 55, of East Liberty. " I guess I just see them that way."

Additional Information:

Bowling Pin Art

What: Work of artists from the Milestone Center in Wilkinsburg

When: Grand opening is 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 12. Store hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays.

Admission: Free

Where: The Art Market, 4128 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Details: 412-621-2951

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