The Vancouver Sun from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on April 25, 1991 · 82
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The Vancouver Sun from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada · 82

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Issue Date:
Thursday, April 25, 1991
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FRASER WILSON and mural he painted in 1 94 7 his cartoon thought to depict a newspaper boss aroused corporate ire PETER BATTISTONI By TOM BARRETT T his is the way Bill White, president of the Marine Workers' and Boilermakers Union during the 1940s, recalls Fraser Wilson: The editorial page cartoonist on one of the dailies for a time was a fella named Fraser Wilson, who was quite a left-winger. Fraser was rep for the Newspaper Guild at the Vancouver Labour Council and once when he was called uvon to say some hard things about his employer, he was fired. Well, I hired him to decorate our hall and in the downstairs lobby he did a cartoon of a big overfed s.o.b. labelled "Daily Press" standing on a prone woman in a white dress labelled "The Truth," stabbing her with a stick pen, and somehow it come out that the stabber looked a lot like his old boss. The boss heard about this and comeaowntonaveaiooK. Before long I got a letter from his lawyer wanting this slanderous depiction removed. 1 checked with our lawyer who took a look and said, "Migawd, get rid of that thing. Anybody would recognize that." Well, that rankled me because this paper was attacking me every other day and I never could get it to take anything back, so I told the lawyer to tell him we had no intention of removing this cartoon. "You can just say, I am very surprised to hear your client claiming a resemblance to this drawing because 1 have queried the artist on this matter and found out that he had no intention of making a likeness of him and in fact he was only trying to depict a moronic-looking individual." That was all we heard on that one. Workers ' friend who draws on experience Theory and the best of intentions aside, artists and organized labor usually occupy different worlds. But Fraser Wil- pjg THE VANCOUVER SUN. Thursday. April 25. 1991 trbirh son has managed to live and work in both at the same time. It's appropriate that MayWorks, the annual celebration of "art made by, for and about working people," is including Wilson in a May 5 symposium on mural arts. The symposium will be held at the Maritime Labour Centre, 111 Victoria Drive, where Wilson's giant mural depicting the resource industries of B.C. fills one wall. It's the same mural that Wilson painted for Bill White upstairs at the old Pender Auditorium in 1947. (The cartoon of the "moronic-looking individual" didn't survive.) In an interview at his North Burnaby apartment, Wilson recalled being fired from The Vancouver Sun for comments he made as Newspaper Guild president during the marathon Province strike. He remembers being called into the office of The Sun's publisher. The company personnel manager, a friend of Wilson's, read out a statement "with tears running down his face." "The statement said I was being dismissed summarily for disloyalty to the paper and that I was to leave the premises within one hour's time. ... In those days there was no protection whatsoever, there was nothing that could be done." Threatened lawsuits from newspaper publishers aside, things didn't always go smoothly while Wilson was painting the Pender Auditorium mural. One day he was up on a scaffold when a boilermakers' official came by to say the hall was being picketed by men from the artists' division of the painters' union. - At the time, Wilson says, this group was "a phoney union," that charged a $125 initiation fee, $25 a month dues and promised its members $5 an hour wages. This at a time when the "aristocrats of labor" in the International Typographical Union were making $1.60 an hour. "A couple of great big guys, they went down and said to these pickets: 'You either move from here or we'll trample you into the cement.' And they left. That's all I heard about that." In 1986, Vancouver's centennial year, the Pender Auditorium was sold. The new owner wanted to divide it into offices, destroying the mural. The new Maritime Labour Centre wanted the mural for one of its walls and the city agreed to help move it. Moving the mural, which had been painted on plasterboard, and restoring it in its new home was a painstaking job. Ferdinand Petrov and his family took the plasterboard down in sheets, scraped off the plaster backing, then glued the resulting sheets on to plywood. Wilson will talk about his mural work in general and the restoration of this particular mural at the symposium May 5. He will be joined by Oscar Deras, a ' recent immigrant from El Salvador, who will talk about a mural on the history of war he did recently for the department of defence; Argentinian artist Juan Manuel . Sanchez, one of Latin America's leading contemporary muralists; painter Nora ' Patrich, a Vancouver resident who also comes from Argentina; and members of the Arts in Action society, a group of artists whose works can be seen on buildings around Vancouver. The symposium is designed to link artists with unions and community groups that are interested in commissioning mural art, symposium moderator Craig Berggold says. "Unions often want to produce things of cultural significance but don't know how to do it," he says. This year's MayWorks festival, the fourth annual, also includes performances by musicians including Utah Phillips, Kin ' Lalat, Ranch Romance and Lillian Allen, left-wing videos and the comedy of Toronto's Sheila Gostick. - ; Most of the events are scheduled for the Maritime Labour Centre, a larger and more centralized venue than in the past, says festival coordinator Joy Thompson. The festival, which receives half its funding from various trade unions, attracted more than 12,000 in its first three years, but Thompson isn't making any predictions for this year. - "We always smile to ourselves when ' asked about number projections," she says. "We have 50 artists, the board members and the staff members we know we'll be there." ' Bill While quotation from Howard White's book A Hard Man lo Beat (Pulp Press, 1983).

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