Good Work: Masters of the Building Arts, a new film on the skilled artisans behind the nation’s exquisitely crafted structures premiered October 26. The film, which captures the extraordinary contributions of craftspeople to the nation’s built environment, is now available for purchase for home video use on Amazon. The 65-minute film was co-produced by the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and American Focus Inc.
Good Work, produced and directed by Folklife curator Marjorie Hunt and Paul Wagner, noted filmmaker, features master artisans from across America—stone carvers, masons, terra-cotta artisans, plasterers, metalsmiths, stained-glass artisans, decorative painters and adobe craftsmen—and celebrates the talent, dedication and pride of these oft-overlooked artisans.
The film stems from Hunt’s fieldwork in 1978 with stone carvers at Washington National Cathedral, which resulted in the 1984 Academy Award-winning film The Stone Carvers, directed and produced by Hunt and Wagner, and Hunt’s research for the 2001 Smithsonian Folklife Festival's Masters of the Building Arts program. The film sheds new light on the skill these artisans bring to their everyday work and how that masterful attention to detail has shaped the nation’s most iconic structures.
“Unfortunately, our society all too often does not value or appreciate these skilled workers and this kind of work,” Hunt said. “As a result, there are not many young people who are interested in learning and pursuing these trades as a career—a loss for our nation in terms of building for the future, preserving our past and sustaining a valuable body of accumulated knowledge and skill that resides in the heads and hands of master artisans.”
Among the artisans highlighted in the film are John Canning and Jacqueline Canning-Riccio, decorative painters whose work is featured prominently in Grand Central Terminal, the U.S. Treasury Building and the National Building Museum. The film also spotlights stone carvers and letterers, such as Nick Benson, whose elegant architectural inscriptions grace the National World War II Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Good Work was produced in collaboration with the American Institute of Architects, the Associated General Contractors of America, the National Building Museum and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, with major funding provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Additional funding was provided by the American Institute of Architects, the International Masonry Institute and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the World Monuments Fund, the Kathleen and Alfred Rotondaro Family Trust and Pacific Coast Building Products.