Italian Montrealers oppose removing storied artist’s name from park

Italian Montrealers oppose removing storied artist’s name from park

Roger Nincheri, grandson of Guido Nincheri poses in a park in Montreal, Saturday, November 26, 2016. The urban park was previously named after his famous relative. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Montreal’s mayor is again facing criticism over changing the name of a city park — this time from members of the Italian community fighting to preserve the legacy of renowned local artist.

A park in the city’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district named after late Italian-Canadian artist Guido Nincheri is expected to be renamed after Quebec City next year, where it will display several statues the city is gifting to Montreal in honour of its 375th birthday.

But some Montreal Italians feel the renaming shows a lack of respect to the artist once described as the “Michelangelo of Montreal,” whose stunning frescoes and stained glass works are displayed in churches across North America.

“This change is an elimination of culture, history and the service of Guido Nincheri and the Italian community at-large,” said Nicholas La Monaca, president of the Montreal Young Italian Canadian Association, which has started a petition on the issue.

Other citizens of all backgrounds have chimed in on social media, some pointing out the dearth of place names in the city that pay tribute to immigrants and members of minority communities.

Regardless of Nincheri, “eliminating a cultural, historical or artistic symbol that belongs to a city and its heritage is unacceptable,” La Monaca said.

This is the second time this year the city’s administration has faced criticism over renaming municipal greenspace.

In June, critics blasted city council’s decision to authorize changing the name of a park honouring Vimy Ridge to instead bear the name of late sovereigntist premier Jacques Parizeau.

Despite the outcry from those who said the decision disrespected veterans, the name change was made official in October.

The city attached the name “Vimy” to a portion of another park.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said earlier this week that renaming Guido-Nincheri park would not erase the artist’s name from Montreal’s landmarks.

He pointed out that a museum near the park, the Dufresne-Nincheri, already preserves both the artist’s name and his stained-glass studio.

“With the name attached to it we will have the capacity to fully respect one of our Italian assets,” Coderre said in an interview.

Nincheri’s 81-year-old grandson said Coderre should have consulted with the Italian community before making a decision.

“Had he had a real consultation all this brouhaha could have been avoided,” Roger Nincheri said in an interview.

But he said that now that he’s seen the statues that will be put up in the park next year, he’s not sure they’re anything his grandfather’s name should be associated with.

He said although the new statues might be to some people’s tastes, he doesn’t feel they represent the city of Montreal or the kind of art his grandfather stood for.

“Look at the plans and see for yourself whether or not Guido Nincheri belongs in that park,” he said.

Nevertheless, he hopes his grandfather can still be represented in the space, perhaps with a plaque and statue honouring his contribution to the Montreal art world.

Quebec, he says, has too often been guilty of ignoring its own artistic history.

“In Europe, anything that deals with religious art is conserved and admired and studied,” he said. “Here in Quebec we have incredible artistic expressions in many of our churches that have completely been ignored.”

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

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This news article is kindly supported by the Voice of English-speaking Québec

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