Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

Artist Ralph Fasanella spent his career capturing the plight of the American worker. But he didn’t just paint images of blue-collar workers—he was one of them. He drove trucks, acted as a union organizer—hell, the guy was even born on Labor Day 1914. The Smithsonian American Art Museum is currently exhibiting a selection of 19 Fasanella paintings and focuses on his craft, but a complementary exhibit at the AFL-CIO’s headquarters places equal emphasis on his social activism and others’ reactions to it. He had a tendency to ruffle feathers: “Lawrence, 1912: The Great Strike,” a painting chronicling striking textile workers in Massachusetts, hung in a House of Representatives hearing room for years, but its pro-union sentiment led Republican leaders to remove it in 1994. For political art that exercises restraint while maintaining a progressive message, Fasanella can’t be beat. The exhibition is on view Mondays through Fridays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to Aug. 1, at the AFL-CIO Lobby, 815 16th St. NW. Free. aflcio.org.