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January 11, 2014

Remembering Christopher: Sculpture honors sixth-grader who died

A new sculptural work adorns the lawn at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier Valley.

Artist John Mayer created three cattails that stand 15 feet high to honor the memory of a Ligonier Valley Middle School pupil who died in an accident several years ago.

The sculptures are the result of a pair of donations totaling $1,000 that the museum received from the school in 2011 and 2013.

Christopher Harr, who was a sixth-grader at the school, died in September 2010 of a gunshot wound while visiting a friend’s house in Ligonier Township.

Christopher’s classmates wanted to do something to honor their late friend, so the school donated proceeds from its annual Hoops for Hope fundraiser, a basketball game between pupils and faculty, to SAMA.

“We host the fundraiser every year and donate the proceeds to different organizations,” school Principal David Steimer said. “Chris was a good artist and loved art. Because of his interest in the arts, we felt SAMA was a good local organization for us to honor his memory.”

SAMA-Ligonier Valley coordinator Sommer Toffle said the school wanted the donation to be put to use in a way that would create a permanent testament to Christopher’s memory.

She began looking into local artists who could create a meaningful outdoor sculpture.

“I felt we needed something whimsical and fun, something that I hoped Chris would have enjoyed,” Toffle said

 “I wanted a sculpture that would be a celebration of life.”

She enlisted Mayer, a resident of New Alexandria, Westmoreland County, who in recent years has focused on sculpture, to work on the project. Mayer installed his creation in late November.

“This is a very exciting, permanent piece of artwork for everyone in the community to enjoy,” Toffle said.

Kelly Urban is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Kel­lyUrban25.

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