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November 15, 2013

Weathered sculpture gets new life in a seaside home

ROCKPORT, Mass. — A distinctive sculpture in Cambridge's bustling Harvard Square faced demolition until getting a lifeline from a seaside town 40 miles to the north.

A Rockport developer is arranging to save the 20-foot granite piece called "Omphalos," created by the late sculptor and Harvard University art professor Dimitri Hadzi in the early 1980s.

Michael Rauseo, who is redeveloping a storied Rockport property, the site of the former Cape Ann Tool Co., said he contacted the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority after reading about its struggle to find a suitable home for the weathered sculpture.

The MBTA, which operates the busy Harvard Square station under the ground below the sculpture, has said it could not afford to restore it. News reports of its probable demise stirred inquires from out of state, said Rauseo, but the sculptor's widow preferred the piece stay in Massachusetts.

Rauseo plans to arrange for the sculpture's repair and said he will place it on a public walkway that will be part of his development.

“Rockport is a perfect fit. It has a rich and vibrant artist community, and I think it would very much welcome this vibrant sculpture," he said.

Omphalos - the Greek word translates to "navel," meaning center - was given by a Rhode Island woman in the early 1980s as the MBTA extended its subway from Harvard Square. The sculpture was erected on a bricked island in the square, near a popular newsstand.

The sculptor, Hadzi, was born in 1921 and grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Greek immigrants impoverished in the Depression. According to the Harvard University Gazette, Hadzi showed an aptitude for art during childhood but instead studied chemistry before serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He later pursued art at Cooper Union in New York, then in Greece and Italy. He arrived at Harvard as a lecturer in 1975.

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