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Featured Artist - Franco Minervini
10/31/2011 - By A.J. Perna
Master Stone Carver
There is no official test or exam to become a Master Stone Carver. There is no vote, selection committee, nor certificate of achievement. In fact, the criteria are much more difficult. The title of Master Stone Carver is bestowed upon one by his or her teacher –much like that of a Kung Fu Master. It took nearly a decade of constant hard work, study, and tens of thousands of pounds of solid rock before Marlboro artist Franco Minervini heard his mentor, in Italian, and almost in passing, utter the words, “Ora siete un maestro” – you are now a teacher.
Back in the early 1950s, at the tender age of eight, young Franco Minervini, already artistically inclined, decided to try his hand at stone carving and apprenticed under his grandfather in his native Adriatic seaport town of Mulfetta, Italy. He was immediately drawn to the sights and sounds of the local group of master carvers as they struck their chisels in time and sang along to the rhythm while working side-by-side. Sadly, he soon laid down his hammer and chisel, believing that he had no real talent after comparing his first attempts to the work of the masters. Such is the arrogance and ignorance of youth.
In the years that followed, Minervini immigrated to Hoboken, later moved to Marlboro,married, had two children, and took up machining as a profession. Though he still pursued painting and sculpting for enjoyment, Franco never considered stone carving again until 1980, when he began taking classes in New York City. So many years after his first attempts, his stone carving roots would finally come to the forefront of his consciousness and the marble and limestone that ran through his veins started to flow once again.
Franco’s future in stone was solidified in 1984 when he saw the award-winning documentary “The Stone Carvers”. The movie highlighted many Italian immigrant artists who were working on the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. – And he knew that he had to be among them.After a talk with his family, a phone call, and an application later, Minervini was traveling to our nation’s capital every week for three years to work at the cathedral, right alongside some of those men from the documentary. Immediately after the completion of the cathedral work, he was hired to do some stone carving restoration work at the White House.
Franco’s first real commissioned piece was a 1992 monument honoring the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the New World.The seven foot long sculpture now resides outside of the Library in Ocean Township. His most renowned work, to date, is the September 11th memorial at Mt. Mitchell Overlook in Atlantic Highlands. Minervini’s majestic eagle, proudly soaring upward,with an actual twisted I-beam salvaged from the World Trade Center clenched in its talons, was chosen from over twenty submitted plans to pay tribute to the Monmouth County residents who perished that day.
Minervini spends his time working on carvings in and behind his rustic, ivy-covered workshop in Freehold. Instead of singing to the cadence of his chisel as the carvers in Mulfetta would do, Franco’s hammer tends to lend a beat along to the sound from his studio’s stereo speakers – sometimes an opera but more likely a Bruce Springsteen tune. Actually, Franco’s dream retirement piece would be the opportunity to do a large stone carving in honor of Springsteen. So don’t be surprised if one day Monmouth County sees a monument of The Boss carved by The Maestro.
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