JOHN BULLARD, mayor of New Bedford, Mass., thinks his city was in danger of losing part of its history. Herman Melville and other writers had enshrined the city's whaling industry. But its factories and union halls - gates of entry for generations of immigrants - were fading from memory.
By capturing images of such places in his paintings, Ralph Fasanella ``is recording part of our history and giving it back to us,'' says Mayor Bullard.
Mr. Fasanella regards New Bedford almost as a second home. He was there for six months gathering impressions for his painting ``Labor Education - New Bedford Union Hall.'' He came back when the Public Domain project arranged to hang it permanently outside the mayor's office in City Hall.
Fasanella met with hundreds of school kids as part of the occasion. They took immediately to this earthy man with the baggy pants. His paintings portray ethnic settings many of them identify with.
``They absolutely adored him,'' says Judy Duval, an art instructor in the city's public schools.
``He's like a family person,'' adds Joao Dias, vice-president of the local electrical workers union. ``He makes everybody happy.''
An exhibit of his work set attendance records at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. Actually, the museum wanted to show his work a number of years ago, but Fasanella wasn't interested.
``I thought it had something to do with fish,'' he says.