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Greensburg Art Club sets task of restoring Horne's sculpture

| Friday, April 27, 2012, 5:57 a.m.

When Greensburg Art Club President John Sharbaugh began looking for a place to sell used furniture, he never imagined he'd find a unique new project for the club.

But Dale Middleman, owner of Used Store Fixtures Inc. in Pittsburgh, had been searching for years for a home for a sculpture that once hung in Horne's department store at the former Greengate Mall and offered to donate it to the club so it could be refurbished and displayed in the community.

Now the nonprofit art club is asking for donations to repair the 18-by-10-foot sculpture so that it can be displayed on the club's grounds along Route 30 in Hempfield near Westmoreland Mall.

"Public art pieces tend to be forgotten, and they disappear over time and they're not maintained," Sharbaugh said. "It's just a shame that it's just sitting there, so I think it was appropriate for us to sort of rescue it."

The piece, which hung in an escalator well at Horne's, was made by the late Virgil David Cantini, a nationally recognized artist who taught at the University of Pittsburgh for 38 years. Many of his pieces are still on display throughout Pittsburgh.

The sculpture consists of 250 brass-covered rods emanating from a glass ball with seven black triangular steel plates.

Middleman found the sculpture, commissioned in the 1960s, in a building he purchased from the Duquesne University Tamburitzans in 1990.

"They had tons of old stuff in here, dating back into the 1920s," he said.

He donated many of the items, but nobody he contacted ever came to see the Cantini piece. So he kept it, waiting for someone who would want it.

"I knew I just didn't want to pitch it," Middleman said. "I knew it was valuable to somebody. It was ridiculous to throw it away."

Along came the art club, which had just built an addition to its building and had been given an excess of furniture. When Sharbaugh called Middleman about selling some furniture, their discussions turned to the Cantini piece.

"We got it quite by accident, and it is massive, but it's something that I think belongs in Westmoreland County and Hempfield Township, and we'd like to bring it back," Sharbaugh said.

The art club owns the piece, but it will remain in Middleman's warehouse until the club can gather the funds to refurbish it and transport it back to Hempfield.

Some pieces are missing and the club has found a local welder willing to remake them.

Sharbaugh estimates it will take about $5,000 to refurbish the piece and build a structure to display it.

He's hoping to have the project complete by the summer.

Contributions can be mailed to The Cantini Project, Greensburg Art Club, 230 Todd School Road, Greensburg, PA 15601.

For more information, call the art club at 724-837-6791.

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