Category Archives: 3 – March 2015

March is Women’s History Month – “Honoring the Women of the Historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911” Lecture at the Art League of Long Island, March 15, 2015

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TSF Lecture at Art League of Long Island

by Debbie Wells

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the Art League of Long Island (ALLI) presented a lecture, “Honoring the Women of the Historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911” in a unique way by having two speakers, both artists, describe their personal connections to this important part of American history. As the Chair of the Board of Directors of ALLI, I arranged for this dual lecture as a way of portraying my personal experience of researching the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (TSF) tragedy and also reckoning with it as a subject for art.

About the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was a company of over 500 employees (mostly hardworking young Jewish and Italian immigrant women) located in the heart of Greenwich Village, right near Washington Square Park. In typical sweatshop conditions, this company produced crisp “Gibson Girl” style blouses that were then the rage. The building, restored to its original glory, is now part of the New York University campus, but has a plaque commemorating its history that every American child learns about in school.

What happened was this: On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the TSF 8th floor at the end of the workday. Chaos ensued. It is contended that the doors were locked. There were certainly many fire hazards inside. People on the street witnessed helplessly as workers jumped out of windows to escape the flames. Fire trucks were ill equipped, lacking ladders high enough to reach the upper floors. Elevators ran as long as they could as workers pressed into
the cars, while some tumbled down the elevator shaft. All of this happened in only 18 minutes. In the end, 146 people died. Shortly after, there was a trial, but the two owners, known as the “Shirtwaist Kings”, were acquitted of wrongdoing, arousing the cry of injustice from the public. However, the lives of these workers were not sacrificed in vain because the tragedy impelled change in America – the rise of the labor union movement and fire safety regulations.

Uncovering My Family History and the Connection to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory

a Annie NicholasAnnie Nicholas (1893-1911)

About 12 years ago, my son was doing his American History homework and mentioned that he was learning about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. My grandmother-in-law, Anne Nicholas-Lerman, was visiting from Florida and explained that her aunt was one of the 146 victims. The whole family immediately wanted to know more. Then she showed us a beautiful photograph of 18-year old Annie Nicholas, who was a button-maker at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. My son has the framed picture in his bedroom and we all treasure this family heirloom.

Continue reading March is Women’s History Month – “Honoring the Women of the Historic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911” Lecture at the Art League of Long Island, March 15, 2015

Artful Observations of the Armory Show & Quiz by Debbie Wells

Armory Show at Pier 94, NYC – March 5-8, 2015

When one attends the annual Armory Show, it is easy to expect to be overwhelmed. One of the most celebrated international contemporary and modern art fairs, this show is always a whirlwind of color, media, canvases, photography, sculptures and more.

Strolling through the aisles, I tried to make sense of all I encountered. I summoned all my knowledge and experience as an artist and designer to observe with an educated eye and form my own critiques. This was the perfect opportunity to interact with the gallery representatives by asking questions and collect a bag full of promotional literature to study later.

Walking past hundreds of venues under one roof reminded me of an all-encompassing version of our Artful Circle gallery tour sessions. My Artful Circle co-founder, Franklin Hill Perrell, renowned museum curator and art historian, creates outstanding itineraries for our groups based on careful research of the current art gallery exhibitions every season. His selections proved to be prophetic because there were so many times I said to myself, “I recognize the work of that artist! I’ve been to that art gallery!” Realizing that I was familiar with so much of the art I saw at the Armory helped me appreciate all I have learned through Artful Circle. How enlightened I felt – and I am sure my fellow Artful Circle friends would agree!

I invite those who have attended our Artful Circle tours to test themselves by looking at my snapshots to see if they can identify the artists who created these eight works of art. Not only have we seen examples of their work first-hand in the hottest art districts such as Chelsea, 57th Street, Madison Avenue, the Hamptons and beyond, we have often even met the artists and gallery owners for looks behind the scenes. This made the visit to the Armory all the more satisfying.


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  1. Alex Katz Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Armory Show 2015
  2. Odili Donald Odita Jack Shaiman Gallery, Armory Show 2015
  3. Vic Muniz Galeria Nara Roesler, Armory Show 2015
  4. François-Xavier Lalanne Ben Brown Fine Arts, Armory Show 2015
  5. Willam Kentridge Lia Rumma, Armory Show 2015
  6. Nick Cave Jack Shaiman Gallery, Armory Show 2015
  7. Jocelyn Hobbie Fredericks & Freiser, Armory Show 2015
  8. Derrick Adams Tilton Gallery, Armory Show 2015

Headline Photo: Visiting the Pace Prints Booth at the Armory Show. Photo Credits: Debbie Wells