Franco is an internationally-known artist who has produced many public works around the world. He was born near Florence, Italy but came to live in New Orleans when he was the artist in residence for the World’s fair in 1984.
When we arrived at their home, Franco and his wife gave us a tour of the small storefront on the ground floor. I immediately recognized the centerpiece of the space, a model of the Monument to the Immigrants:
This is how Franco describes the monument:
At the turn of the century many Italian immigrants came to this country, a large number of them through the port of New Orleans. This monument will commemorate and honor those who left their country to find something better for their future as well as their children's. The female muse is a symbol of hope in different civilizations. The star she holds represents guidance to the explorer toward his desire to find a new place and to achieve his dreams. Her gown, an inspirational and spiritual presence, flows over the figures of four immigrants forming a family nucleus. In each of their faces one can see the grim determination and courage they must have had to leave behind everything they knew. These people are being rendered from real photographs of their time to capture the proper wardrobe, detail and, most of all, the look in their eyes.
Being an immigrant myself, I’m always moved when I see this sculpture. It perfectly captures the ambivalence we felt when we set foot in New York in 1966. It did take a great leap of courage and determination for my parents to once again leave everything behind in hopes of a better future, yet we are still draped by the influence of our muse who points to our past experiences in the Netherlands and Indonesia.
On the mantle nearby, I noticed this sculpture and fell in love with it:
After drinks, to our great surprise and delight, Franco and his wife presented each of us with a poster of the Louisiana Alphabet he created. In 1984, it was declared the official alphabet by the governor.
Top photo of the Immigrant Monument with the riverboat and the photo of the close-up of the immigrant face are from Franco Alessandrini's website.