Since some of the Lawrence mills had closed or moved south when Fasanella came to the city, he went to Lowell to see the looms of the textile mills still in operation there and incorporated them into his paintings of Lawrence.
This is the first time in 26 years that Fasanella’s paintings have been on display in Lawrence. There was an exhibit in 1987 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Bread and Roses strike. The paintings along with Fasanella returned in 1988 for a display at Lawrence Public Library.
“He allowed people to look at our history with pride,” said Jim Beauchesne, gallery director at Lawrence Heritage State Park.
He said before Fasanella’s paintings of Lawrence were in the spotlight, people were ashamed of the city’s industrial history.
“Some saw it as a failure for the mill owners that the workers won. It was a symbol of failure because the city saw a decline when the rest of the country was prospering.
“He brought the story of Lawrence to the world at large and the exhibit is another way to learn about history,” Beauchesne said. “He is not only a great artist, but helped revive an interest in the strike and the struggle of workers.”
Nesvet said having Fasanella’s painting in Lawrence “Is our tribute to him for what he did for the city,”
Fasanella was born in the Bronx, N.Y. coincidentally on Labor Day, 1914. His mother drilled holes into buttons at a dress shop and his father delivered ice from a horse-driven wagon to local homes and the future artist often went with him. He was a self-taught artist.
“Coming from New York City, I can see the similarities between Lawrence and New York,” Nesvet said.
“When Ralph moved to Lawrence, it led him back to his urban beginnings. It was like home to him,” she said.