Fascinating Fasanella Works of Art Go to Schools
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City — Nothing could be more fascinating than telling the story of your roots through paintings. The Ralph Fasanella: Lest We Forget exhibit features the art work of the great artist Ralph Fasanella (1914-1997) who had been telling stories of ordinary workers and the American labor movement which he saw in his lifetime.
The exhibit opened with a reception at the American Folk Art Museum yesterday, November 12, to raise funds for labor history appreciation among high school students through the art.
Labor organizations nationwide have put efforts together to purchase thousands of copies of the award-winning documentary, “Fasanella,” for area high schools produced by the Glen Pearcy Productions in 1992. It won silver plaque in the Intercom Chicago International Film Festival.
Teachers at the Michigan State University created a companion classroom educators’ guide to help students learn about the labor movement and labor history, and how to undertake oral history interviews. The guide also encourages projects for students to create art and essays honoring their ethnic heritage.
In the documentary, Fasanella said, “We are all immigrants. Honor your roots.”
Fasanella was born to Italian parents in the Bronx and grew up in working-class neighborhood. He worked in a gasoline station for quite some time and then became a union organizer. He would later become a self-taught painter and carried this creative work for 52 years. While being actively engaged in the labor movement, Fasanella painted the sights and scenes of workers at work or in active struggle.
The ordinary lives of workers and the great impact they created as part of the labor movement are rendered vividly and colorfully by Fasanella. In the exhibit, one revisits the tumultuous times of “The Great Strike, Lawrence 1912,” or the magnificence of “New York City,” because of its working people, and the blissfulness of family in “Family Supper.”
In his tribute to Fasanella at the exhibit reception, Arthur Chelioter of the CWA 1180 emphasized that the fund raiser was meant for school children. “So that the school children will understand that what we have today came with a lot of pain from those who labored before us.”
National Writer Union president Larry Goldbetter said the work of Fasanella is highly impressive and believes that this will make an impact among the younger generations in the US. “They will appreciate our labor struggles through his art.”
The exhibit, which runs until December 1, 2014, is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with the support from Tania and Tom Evans, Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. American Folk Art Fund, and Paula and Peter Lunder.