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Good Work – Masters Of The Building Arts

Are you looking for something to watch? You might want to check out PBS’s Good Work Masters of the Building Arts which celebrates American craftsmanship and the unsung artisans who create and preserve America’s iconic buildings.

The film is a project of the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and American Focus, a non-profit organization creating documentary films about American life.

This 65-minute documentary directed by Academy Award winning filmmakers, Marjorie Hunt, PhD. and Paul Wagner, features ten artisans, all masters of their crafts that were documented in action. The artisans include: Joe Alonso, master mason; Earl Barthé, plasterer; Nick Benson, stone carver and letterer; John Canning and Jacqueline Canning-Riccio, master decorative painters; Jesus Cardenas and Humberto Miranda, terra cotta artisans; Patrick Cardine, blacksmith; Dieter Goldkuhle, stained glass artisan, and Albert Parra, adobe builder.

Of course, we are extremely proud the Masters of The Building Arts features one of the principals and namesake of our company John Canning along with his daughter Jacqueline.

Trinity Church Boston John & Jackie

John Canning and his daughter Jacqueline Canning-Riccio working at Trinity Church in Boston

John Canning is one of the great masters of the decorative painting tradition and leading authority of the decorative arts in the United States. John learned his trade in Glasgow, Scotland, where he served a five-year apprenticeship as a decorative painter and church decorator, earning the prestigious London City & Guilds certificate. Educated in old-world decorative techniques from the Stow College of Building Trades and Glasgow School of Art, John brought his knowledge and skills to the United States in the early 1970s–just as our nation’s historic preservation movement was taking off. A pivotal force in saving America’s past, John Canning and his talented team of decorative painters at John Canning & Co., have restored many of our country’s important historic buildings, including Trinity Church Boston, Grand Central Terminal, the U.S. Treasury Building, the National Building Museum, and the State Capitols of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. John is an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, the only decorative painter in North America to be so honored.

John has taught his trade to many talented young craftspeople, including his daughter Jacqueline Canning-Riccio. With the combination of genes and apprenticeship training, Jacqueline has become a master of the decorative arts. Now with over 32 years’ experience in the field of historic paint decoration, Jacqueline uses her expertise to manage all the studio decorative art and design work. She has worked with John on such landmarks as the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco and Radio City Music Hall in New York and Trinity Church in Boston. She has been a vital team member for the many restoration projects across the country.

Trinity Church Boston

Trinity Church in Boston

Good Work captures John Canning and his daughter Jacqueline Canning-Riccio preserving the famous John La Farge murals on the ceiling of historic Massachusetts Trinity Church in Boston’s Copley Square. John Canning & Co. received the prestigious National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for their outstanding restoration work on Trinity Church.

PBS Distribution, a separate entity from PBS Broadcast, selected Good Work for distribution to educational and home video markets via streaming/downloads on Amazon and Apple TV to give more people a chance to check out these master artisans.

Good Work has been the subject of several excellent articles and reviews, including outstanding stories for Smithsonian Magazine.com, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Traditional Building, among others.

Good Work is not just for artisans, architects, builders, city planners, and preservationists, to enjoy and benefit from watching. Good Work allows members of the general public to take a look at the master artisans and how they have impacted the world around them. It will leave many saying they will “never look at a building the same way again”. Hopefully this will also inspire some viewers to think about a career in craftsmanship and may be featured as a master artisan in future films.

Canning C

May 06, 2020

Featured Projects


Trinity Church

We provided design assistance, which included finishing investigations for the fine and decorative artwork in the Trinity Church’s Central Tower.

Grand Central Terminal, Sky Mural, Conservation Mural Cleaning

Grand Central Terminal

John Canning & Co. formulated the cleaning agent and process for the thorough and harmless conservation cleaning and restoration of the Grand Central Terminal ceiling mural

Interior of the Radio City Music Hall Lobby in New York City, New York featuring an ornate curved ceiling with gold leaf detailing, elegant red draperies, and classic hanging light fixtures.

Radio City Music Hall Restoration

We applied over 180,000 square feet of metal leaf and glazes in order to properly restore the 1932 historical golden interior of the Radio City Music Hall.

War Memorial Opera House Restoration

We carefully applied traditional gold-leaf gilding and glazes on 500,000 linear feet of historic architectural elements at the War Memorial Opera House.

Cash Room

US Treasury Building

Our team carefully restored the decorative paint of the patinated railings in public stairwells and ornately gilded surfaces in the Main Treasury Building.

National Building Museum Pillars

National Building Museum Restoration

Our skilled artisans implemented a historically accurate marbling finish on the Great Hall Columns at the National Building Museum in Washington DC.

Connecticut State Capitol Restoration

John Canning Co. comprehensive restoration of Aesthetic period decoration designed by Richard M. Upjohn and William McPherson in 1878.

Rhode Island State Capitol Restoration

Rhode Island State Capitol Dome Restoration

Our team of artists provided the Rhode Island State House conservation, cleaning, and restoration of the dome murals, painting, and architectural gilding.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Restoration

Our team provided restoration of the plaster, decorative painting, and historic woodwork repair and refinishing at the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building.

Michigan State Capitol

John Canning & Co. projects at Michigan Capitol 1989-92 and 2016 required expert woodgraining matching skills, and innovation in plaster reattachment and distemper paint conservation, and every other decorative painting skill.

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As a conservation studio and restoration contractor, our team of highly skilled craftsmen, artisans, and conservators are experienced in the use of traditional methods and materials. We understand the importance in sharing our expertise and knowledge in our field.

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