Virgil Cantini Mosaic - Pittsburgh, PA

a piece of public art, design + architectural heritage in pittsburgh:  


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1964 mosaic by artist, virgil cantini - Pittsburgh, PA 

A stunning work of modern public art is at risk.
Participate in its preservation.

Virgil Cantini’s ambitious and inventive mosaic sculpture, comprised of 28 colorful panels, enlivens the walls of a 60-foot long pedestrian underpass beneath Bigelow Boulevard in Downtown Pittsburgh, connecting Chatham Street to Seventh Avenue. Unique in its artistry and engineering, the installation is among the first public works of its kind in the United States.

This incredible piece of Pittsburgh’s heritage was commissioned in 1964 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, who invited Cantini to transform the Bigelow underpass through art. Inspired by the vibrant mosaics experienced in subways and public spaces throughout Europe, Cantini created an unforgettable experience for the citizens of Pittsburgh, commemorating the vitality and dynamic nature of the city. That long-lasting achievement is now threatened.

During 2018, the City of Pittsburgh will begin to implement the I-579 "Cap" Project, a new 3-acre park connecting the Lower Hill District to Downtown. The plans call for filling in the pedestrian underpass that contains Cantini's mosaic, and potentially reinstalling only 3 of its 28 panels. After the Pittsburgh community responded that this plan was unacceptable, and that the entire mosaic should be preserved, the Sports & Exhibition Authority has agreed to do so. However the mosaic’s future, for the moment, remains uncertain. We must work together to ensure this unparalleled work of art is preserved in its entirety, and reinstalled at a fitting new site where it can continue to be enjoyed by all.  SEE IMAGES

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In Virgil's Words

The art is supposed to lend a feeling of movement...I want to give an experience of sensing the city - both day and night... gold and silver will shimmer like the lights of the city. They will pick up the lights of the tunnel and give an experience, a point of view.
By spacing the mosaics, I hoped to create the idea of a strata cut into the earth - the city growing out of the earth and not bound by a frame. You visualize the city simultaneously from many points of view.
You see, I want the tunnel to be a gallery, some place to go through rather than stay out from. It is not designed to stop you... it is meant to be something you look at while you are walking along.
My feeling is that art is not connected to a particular media. To me, painting, mosaic, sculpture - all are a form of a man’s expression.


Virgil Cantini


Artist, VIRGIL CANTINI (1919-2009)

Having emigrated from Italy in 1930, Pittsburgh-based artist and educator Virgil Cantini maintained a prolific studio practice, with a significant amount of his artistic production prompted by special commissions and large-scale public works. A range of universities, architectural firms, churches, landscape designers, city facilities and private collectors were eager to engage this sought-after, multi-media artist in unique projects. Creating compelling compositions and sculptures in enamel, metal, glass, wood, fiber and more, Virgil Cantini gave our city color, texture and character through his modern approach and bold experimentation.

an arts advocate, VIRGIL CANTINI (1919-2009)


Recipient of dozens of local and national awards recognizing his artistic achievements, Cantini was instrumental in establishing the Department of Studio Arts at the University of Pittsburgh where he served on the faculty for nearly 40 years, including as Chairman. An advocate for the visual arts in Pittsburgh, he was named to the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Arts Council upon its creation, served as President of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, as a member of the Board of Governors of the Pittsburgh Plan for Art and on the City of Pittsburgh Art Commission.