The Metro Scene

Sister City Partnership with Pietrasanta Italy

International Partners

Sister Cities Montgomery and Pietrasanta

By Patsy Robertson
Photography Darren Freeman

In Italian folklore, the moon is believed to have two faces. On one side a face looks back over the past; on the other, a face looks forward with its sights set on the future.

That mythology has come alive through a new classical sculpture at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

It is Mayor Todd Strange to thank. It was his idea.

On the cusp of his mayoral retirement, Mayor Strange commissioned a sculpture in commemoration of two important anniversaries: Montgomery’s ten-year partnership as a “Sister City” with Pietrasanta, Italy. And our 2019 Bicentennial — celebrating the 200th birthdays of both the City of Montgomery and the State of Alabama.

Official Sister City documents, designating the partnership, were signed with the advent of the mayor’s term in 2009.

Bicentennial history goes back to when Alabama was born on December 14, 1819, becoming the 22nd state to the union. In the same month and year, the City of Montgomery was incorporated.

The sculpture, named “Nostra Luna,” is a classical piece carved in pure white Sylacauga marble. The name literally means “Our Moon” in Italian.

It symbolizes the strong bond between Montgomery and Pietrasanta.  Although some 5,000 miles apart, the cities share one moon.

Mayor Strange said, “We are excited to have this piece in the John and Joyce Caddell Sculptor Garden at our museum. It will be a constant symbol of the relationship between these two great cities.”

Commission of the sculpture was made possible through the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts (MABCA). Ashley DuBose Ledbetter, MABCA, Executive Director, has served as project chairman.

Dawn Hathcock, Vice-President, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention and Visitors Bureau, has coordinated many events throughout the partnership’s existence.

Although Mayor Strange initiated the partnership, former Alabama State Council on the Arts, Executive Director, Al Head, is recognized as being the catalyst. It was under his leadership, many years earlier, that groundwork was laid.

The partnership has expanded to include Troy University as well as Montgomery Public Schools through City Councilman Richard Bollinger.

The relationship may be termed a sisterhood, but there seems to have developed a strong brotherhood between the mayors of both cities.  Mayor Strange and then Mayor Massimo Mallegni of Pietrasanta have maintained a mutual friendship. They’re what you could call “buddies.”

Each has visited the other’s city, more than once. They have been hailed as honorary citizens in each location.

The camaraderie continues with Pietrasanta’s new mayor, Alberto Stefano Giovannetti. Former Mayor Mallegni has moved on to become an Italian senator, but there has been no movement away from his commitment to our Capitol City and certainly to his good friend, Mayor Todd Strange.

When time came to make the sculpture a reality, none other than the celebrated, brilliant Alabama sculptor, Craigger Browne was selected. The Birmingham area native is artist-in-residence in Sylacauga, Alabama.  His works are exhibited worldwide. Browne has made many commission pieces, including the life-size Helen Keller/ Anne Sullivan statues for Tuscumbia, 2017.

Browne knew right away he wanted Pietrasanta sculptor, Marcello Giorgi, to join forces for the important work. Giorgi is a master carver. He is classically trained, growing up near the famous Carrara Marble quarries in Italy.

Both sculptors happen to be good friends, working together during Sylacauga’s Marble Festival. They both have been trained in fine art, studying classical sculpture in Italy and France.

Giorgi arrived in Sylacauga some six months ago to work with Browne, who was finalizing his concept for the design.  Each sculpturer had rough draft designs of what they envisioned.

“The work flowed . . . we worked easily together,” said Browne.  However, the work was laborious, even if a passion for the ultra-talented sculptors.

There were 12-14-hour days.  And that was six days a week. He termed it a “fast turn-around” piece.

It was amazing to experience the happiness and confidence these two artists radiated while they worked. They carved in cold stone, but glowed warm-heartedly.  It was a rousing opera of a scene.

Browne explained that Nostra Luna is a symbol of the importance of not losing sight of the past as we move towards the future. “I have designed ‘Nostra Luna’ to have a modern feel, while giving a nod to the past.”

He detailed the sculpture: “The Moon is five feet in diameter. It is sculpted from white Sylacauga marble and rests on three black granite mountains, the tallest being two-and-a-half feet in height. The moon is one foot deep in the center, tapering out to a sharp edge and into a new moon crescent, a symbol of reflection.”

The base is formed by “three pyramids, mountains, varying in size. Each side of the moon has a ‘tondo,’ or round classical relief,” Browne explains.

On one side, there is an older woman looking back over Pietrasanta with prideful approval of many centuries of classical tradition. On the other, is a younger woman looking forward over Montgomery with joyous hope for the future.

Ever sharp on details, Browne points out the symbolic flowers the women are holding. The older woman is shown with a gladiolus, symbolic of “remembrance,” while the younger woman has an iris, representing “hope.”

It was Mayor Strange’s desire to represent the Sister City partnership with a permanent remembrance. He explained that art is the common bond between cultures. “There is no language barrier when it comes to art.

To Hear Interview with former Pietrasanta  Mayor Massimo Mallegni
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