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Preserving Pittsburgh's Renaissance Man

Feb 25, 2024 - Feb 25, 2024 | 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Heinz History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

This panel discussion with experts in art, architecture, and historic preservation will focus on Virgil Cantini, the Italian-born, Pittsburgh-based visual artist, and his 60 foot long, 28-panel mosaic mural from 1964, which was removed in 2019 from its original site in a pedestrian tunnel. The removal and relocation was coordinated with the involvement of federal, state, and city officials in consultation with concerned citizens and professionals using processes outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The mosaic panels have since been carefully conserved by McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory and reinstalled at a new location in the Steel T Plaza Station in Downtown Pittsburgh.

During this conversation on one of Pittsburgh’s most celebrated artists, panelists will provide insight into how the artwork was created, its connection to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s mid-20th century redevelopment of the Lower Hill District, and the role the federal and state governments played during the life of the mosaic.

Following the discussion, there will be a reception with light refreshments, sponsored by the History Center’s Italian American Program, Preservation Pittsburgh’s Modern Committee, and the City of Pittsburgh.

The program is free with advance registration. For access to History Center exhibitions, regular admission rates apply. The event will take place in the History Center’s fifth floor Mueller Center.

Virgil David Cantini (1919-2009) was born in Pietransieri, Italy. He immigrated with his family to Weirton, West Virginia in 1930 to escape the rise of Fascism under Mussolini. Artistic and athletic, Cantini was an All-American quarterback and received a football scholarship to play in college. He attended Manhattan College of Technology in New York before transferring to Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). His education was interrupted by World War II when he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army’s Engineering Corps as a modelmaker and topographer. He returned from his service in 1946, graduated from college, and married fellow artist Lucille Kleber. They lived and worked in their home on South Craig Street in Oakland, raising two daughters.

In 1948, Cantini earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh, where he later taught and helped to create the Fine Arts Department. He chaired the department until his retirement in 1989. He became an Associate Professor of Fine Art at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 1950s after teaching ceramics for four years at Schenley High School. His local and national profile grew as he participated in group and solo exhibitions. He was named one of Time Magazine’s “Leaders of Tomorrow” in 1953 and won the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts’ Artist of the Year in 1956. Cantini was active among professional organizations, such as the Sculpture Society, the Craftsmen Guild, and the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship to return to Europe to study his craft in 1957 and the Pope Paul VI Bishop’s Medal in 1964 for his contributions to liturgical art.

About the Panelists

David Anthony is the Historic Preservation Specialist for PennDOT Districts 10-0 and 11-0, focusing on above ground historic properties.? David, along with his archaeologist counterpart, is responsible for Section 106 Consultation and cultural resources management in those two western Pennsylvania districts.

Lisa Cantini-Seguin is a native of Pittsburgh who grew up in Oakland, close to the University of Pittsburgh, where her father, Virgil Cantini, taught.??She attended Vassar College and graduated with a B.A. in Art History and then received an MFA in Film and Television Production from Carnegie Mellon University.?She spent 25 years working as an Emmy Award winning television producer and writer for WQED, producing numerous documentaries and other short video segments. Following her years at WQED, Lisa worked as freelance producer for advertising agencies, public relation firms and corporations. In 2000, Lisa began teaching as an Adjunct Professor at Robert Morris College in the Communications Department, where she taught various media-related courses. She later joined the faculty of Grove City College as an Associate Professor, where she taught video and audio production classes as well as documentary film history, digital media and writing for media.?Lisa and her husband, Jim, both now retired, live in the East End of Pittsburgh in a 138-year-old home. They have four children and five grandchildren.

Tony Cavalline is the Arts, Culture, and History Specialist for Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning. In this role, he?administers the City’s public art program, including the conservation and management of the City’s collection of public art?and?memorials;?the review and approval of modifications to the public realm; and new commissions of public art. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he is a mixed media artist and a passionate supporter of local arts, business, and culture. He lives in Lawrenceville?with his husband.

Melissa E. Marinaro?is the Director of the Italian American Program at the Senator John Heinz History Center where they oversee the institution’s Italian American Collection and manage the Italian American Program’s public and educational programming, community outreach, and Italian American Advisory Council. Marinaro has a BFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and a MA in Art History with a concentration in the History of Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design. They worked at?The Art Institute of Chicago in Museum Education,?The Chicago History Museum?in Special Collections, and was the Interim Director of Education at?Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. Since joining the History Center’s staff in January of 2013, Melissa has cultivated significant artifact and archival collections related to post-war Italian immigration to Western Pennsylvania, the Passionists’ first monastery in North America, Italian folk-revival troupe?I Campagnoli, and local Italian American businesses. Their research interests include Italian immigration, American identity, and oral history and storytelling as a research device. They are the author of Highlights from the Italian American Collection: Western Pennsylvania Stories and curated the award-winning exhibition American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith. They are currently the Exhibition Review Editor for the journal the?Italian American Review.

Brittany Reilly has served on the Board of Directors of Preservation Pittsburgh since 2018 to contribute toward the awareness and appreciation of our region’s historic, architectural and cultural resources. She is the founder and chair of the Pittsburgh Modern Committee, focused on bringing perspective to mid-20th-century modern and postmodern architecture, public art and design. Brittany has worked extensively with contemporary artists and institutions throughout her 20-year career in the visual arts. As Executive Director of the Irving & Aaronel deRoy Gruber Foundation, she manages a collection of artwork by the late Pittsburgh-based artist Aaronel deRoy Gruber (1918-2011) and related archival material. She oversees the Foundation’s support of the arts in Western Pennsylvania and has realized a number of special exhibitions and projects throughout the country and at the Foundation’s gallery in the historic Ice House Studios. Brittany received her M.A. in Visual Arts Administration from New York University, Steinhardt (2013) and B.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2005).

Laura Ricketts grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with a keen appreciation for the built environment. She studied Art History with a specialization in American Architecture at The Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She then spent three years living in a garret in Paris and commuting by train to nearby Versailles to teach for UIUC’s architectural study abroad program housed in the former stables of King Louis XIV. Upon her return to Pittsburgh, Laura became a Cultural Resources consultant completing all aspects of Section 106 compliance for historic structures and historic preservation work for private and municipal clients. Laura currently serves as the Senior Architectural Historian and Historic Structures Group Leader for The Markosky Engineering Group, Inc. located in Ligonier, PA. Laura is also active with the Pittsburgh Modern Committee of Preservation Pittsburgh and has led modern design walking tours for the group. She can regularly be spotted taking classes or perusing exhibits at local museums, and she dedicates much of her free time to creative projects.

Mark Young is the Environmental Planning Manager for PennDOT District 11-0 in Bridgeville, PA. Mark and the District Environmental Unit are responsible for NEPA compliance and permitting for transportation projects in the three-county district.

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