Collection: America’s Labor Heritage

Ralph Fasanella was a wonderful, outgoing artist committed to a humanistic concept of socially engaged art. This is a path he forged years before he picked up a pencil to sketch or a brush and tubes of oil paint. As an organizer for the United Electrical Workers Union, Ralph wanted workers to see the union hall as a cultural center as well as place to take on the boss. So, he added jazz concerts, lectures, and dances to the usual union hall activities. Later as an artist, Ralph’s vision was to paint large canvasses to display in those same halls transforming them into galleries. In the late 1980’s, a friend and fellow union organizer named Ron Carver arranged for Cornell’s Johnson Museum to bring the Ralph Fasanella Urban Visions exhibit, curated by Paul D’Ambrosia and Suzette McAvoy, to the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts where Ron worked as a union organizer in the very same union as Ralph did forty years earlier. Ron wanted the members of their union to find joy and pride in this now famous working-class artist.

As Ron was looking for ways to raise money for transporting the paintings and buying into the Urban Visions tour, Ralph suggested printing and selling posters, something the healthcare workers union 1199 had been doing for years. This was the genesis of the series that Ron produced called America’s Labor Heritage. And, with Ralph’s help, Ron took the concept one step further. Ralph would be interviewed about each artwork so that a few paragraphs could be added to each poster, putting the scene into historical perspective. This communicated Ralph’s thoughts, as well as his art, with the folks who worked in New Bedford’s factories, the garment shops, frame shops, coffee shops.

Ralph insisted that the final posters be printed in exact inch heights and lengths. This way, workers on limited budgets could frame the poster themselves using ready-made frame kits. Encouraging workers to hang art in their homes and union halls was as important to Ralph as making the paintings that honored labor history and working-class heritage. Ralph always urged his audiences to embrace their families’ backgrounds. “Lest We Forget” was his motto and the phrase he painted at the top of a Sullivan Street tenement building in his famous Family Supper painting.

The products in this collection are pre-printed posters and are not printed on demand as are the other products showcased on Museums.Co. Proceeds from the sale of these posters go towards the support of fasanella.org whose aim is to create an online forum — The Center for Social Realism — a venue for contemporary artists communicating the political events of their time in a compelling, direct, and visceral way. 

 

12 products
America's Labor Heritage: Family Supper
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America's Labor Heritage: The Great Strike - Lawrence, 1912
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America's Labor Heritage: May Day
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America's Labor Heritage: Welcome Home Boys
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Maine Celebrates America's Labor Heritage: Red Sky Poster
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Subway Riders Poster
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America's Labor Heritage: Mill Town Weaving Department
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America's Labor Heritage: Building Your Unions Poster
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Rhode Island Celebrates America's Labor Heritage: Working the Night Shift Poster
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America's Labor Heritage: The Daily News Strike Poster
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The Corner Butcher Poster
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Iceman Crucified Poster
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