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Guido Nincheri Park to be renamed, another slap in face to the Italian community

Guido Nincheri Park to be renamed, another slap in face to the Italian community

Guido Nincheri Park to be renamed, another slap in face to the Italian community

MONTREAL – “Officialdom” delivers another slap in the face to the Italian community. Reactions range from disappointment to outrage.

Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal announced last Thursday that Guido Nincheri Park would be no more. His name would be removed from all signs. The Park would be renamed to honor Quebec City (seat of the Provincial government) and four statues donated by it would adorn the location.

Guido Nincheri was a world-class artist whose works adorn 200 churches in North America, from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island, to the USA. The State of Rhode Island granted him an honorary citizenship in recognition of his contribution to architecture and art.

Guido (Guidon, for the Francophones) trained for 12 years at L’Accademia delle Belle Arti, in Florence before emigrating, at the age of 29, with his wife to Montreal in 1914.

For the next fifty years, his talent was commissioned by emerging bourgeoisie and the Church to build and adorn structures everywhere. His frescoes earned him the moniker of “the Michelangelo of Montreal”. Pope Pius IX referred to him as the Church’s greatest artist of the twentieth century.

Nincheri developed such a unique and striking style of painting especially adapted to stained glass windows that some 200 churches are home to his work – 125 of them in the region in and around Montreal. The studio he founded is nearby the park that [still, for a while longer] bears his name.

His grandson, trying hard to control his emotions, told the Corriere in a phone interview that he was “disappointed to say the least”. The City had not even consulted with him. “I’ve heard that the Congress has now set up a meeting with the Mayor to discuss this, in the near future.”

At time of printing, the Corriere’s calls and emails to the Congress and the Mayor had not been immediately returned.

Joyce Pillarella, a teacher historian, was more direct:” Guido’s studio has produced 5000 stained glass windows; he personally was an integral par of an emerging new Canadian society for fifty years. This decision comes close to an attempt to erase [part of] history. It disrespects our cultural patrimony.”

In recognition of his role in giving Montreal its “character”, Montreal City Council declared him a “builder of the City”, posthumously in 1992, on the occasion of the city’s 350th anniversary. In 1997, the painting of one of his “Madonnas” was the template for a Canadian stamp. In 2007, he was declared “a National Historic Person” by the Canadian government.

So why this? Why now? Tony Nardi, playwriter, screenwriter, producer and PHD candidate, former Montreal resident who brought this story to our attention, says it has been going on for years.

It surfaces whenever people become complacent, offers Joyce, but it is important to “tell your history and what you are about”. This city and this community did not develop in isolation, in a vacuum.

A couple of English language media outlets (Montreal Gazette and CTV) have already waded in with editorial comment.

(Monday 28 November 2016)

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