By CARL GREEN
Mt. Vernon, IL – St. Louis labor attorney and mediator Bruce Feldacker needed some art works to decorate his office back in the late ’70s, so he decided to pick up some pieces that reflected his concern for American workers.
That modest start has evolved into one of the most notable collections of labor-oriented art, and much of the collection is now on display at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts main gallery in this town an hour’s drive east of St. Louis.
“I realized there was a whole body of art that represented labor and industry,” Feldacker told the Labor Tribune.
Feldacker’s wife Barbara was his partner in collecting the art, making purchases from local dealers, directly from artists and occasionally at auction.
“She really kept me on track,” Feldacker said. “She had veto power, for sure.”
And the Feldackers aren’t done collecting. “Absolutely – I’m always looking,” he said.
PRINTS AND DRAWINGS
The collection has grown to nearly 500 oil paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings on the theme of labor and the role of the laborer. It features many regional artists, giving them valuable exposure.
Much of the collection is now maintained at the St. Louis Mercantile Library, where some of the pieces are always on display in a rotation system. Feldacker still has some of it as well. He entered the collection into a Promised Gift arrangement in 2004.
The Mercantile’s description of the collection lists the names of little-known artists and some prominent ones such as Thomas Hart Benton and Winslow Homer.
“As a result, the collection has a remarkable breadth of style as well as a chronological depth, both of which contribute to its strength as a teaching tool in the areas of American art and American labor history,” the library states in its description.
Cedarhurst curator Rusty Freeman chose about 60 pieces for the show in Mt. Vernon, Feldacker said.
Freeman commented: “From Occupy Wall Street to social media discussions, to the shrinking middle class, the story of the average American worker draws discussion.”
The show will be complemented by “Urban Myths: The Art of Christopher Brennan,” a display of works by Brennan, assistant professor of art at Lewis and Clark Community College, Godfrey.
To get to Cedarhurst, take Interstate 64 east; go south at Interstate 57 and exit to the east on Illinois 15 (Broadway). At 27th Street (Cedarhurst Drive), turn left and proceed north to Richview Road, turn right on Richview and then left into the main parking lot.