I had a nice phone conversation yesterday with Mr. Steven Huss, Cultural Arts Manager for the City of Oakland. He called to reassure me that the Fasanella painting "Welcome home, Boys" was in good hands at the African american Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO, above), and that the city would redouble their efforts to care for the work as well as ensure public access to it.
Mr. Huss made a couple of points that bear repeating here. First, that the painting was never "lost," but that it had been moved without the Cultural Arts office knowing where it went. He went on to explain that this painting is an anomaly in the City's art collection in that it is the only moveable object they have. (This page will give you some idea of what he means). I can certainly sympathize in that city offices generally do not have the staff, infrastructure, or procedures in place to track objects the way museums do. And museums do lose things from time to time too.
At any rate, the painting is now on everyone's radar screen for the foreseeable future. Mr. Huss promised to move it from the office area it now occupies to a public gallery at AAMLO. He even promised to send me a photograph of the work in its new location for me to post here on the blog. In return, I have donated a copy of my 2001 book "Ralph Fasanella's America" to AAMLO for them to have as a resource for people who come see the painting.
The only question that remains for me is whether "Welcome Home, Boys" fits into the mission and activities of AAMLO, whose stated purpose is to "discover, preserve, interpret and share the historical and cultural experiences of African Americans in California and the West for future generations." AAMLO has a lot of archival material relating to progressive movements and people; perhaps that is a tie-in; "Welcome Home, Boys" includes a diverse group of labor activists and strongly reflects the artist's experience in the more progressive unions to advocate for racial and gender equality. AAMLO also appears to have high-quality exhibition spaces and design. So I'm looking forward to seeing where the Fasanella fits in.
For now, however, I feel satisfied that the painting is safe, the city values it again, and the public will shortly be able to see it. That is, after all, what the public domain is all about.