New Acquisition by the Hermitage

The State Hermitage Museum in the classical city center of St. Petersburg, Russia has recently acquired Frank Mason’s “Little Italy” to be featured in the museum’s new 20th & 21st century art wing opening in 2014.

The Frank Mason Estate has recently contributed “Little Italy”, a 6ft by 9ft oil painting on canvas, to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.  The Hermitage is one of the oldest and most recognized museums in the world.  Little Italy was considered one of the artist’s favorite murals, because it is a reflection of the neighborhood where he lived and worked for over 40 years.

 “Little Italy” is a large mural painting from the 1970’s that embodies the spirit of Mare Chiaro Tavern, located in downtown New York’s historic Italian neighborhood.  The patrons of this small restaurant and bar posed together for a few group sketch studies and then individually while Mason masterfully depicted each of their portraits.  After Mason completed this impressive 22 figure mural painting, he created a series of commemorative lithographs of the same subject matter.  A large neighborhood celebration and press gathering marked the inaugural day of the paintings installation at Mare Chiaro where it stood on display for over 40 years.

The donation of “Little Italy” was prompted by Russian history Professor Arcadi Nebolsine who has served as a trusted liaison between the cultural worlds of New York City and St. Petersburg for many years.   In May of 2003 Prof. Nebolsine arranged for Frank Mason’s nephew, Scott, to meet with Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg.  This led to Dr. Piotrovsky’s agreement to serve as an advisor for ArtWatch International.  Frank Mason was one of the founding members of this organization, which absorbed the first International Art Preservation Society he and Prof. Nebolsine established in the late 80’s.  ArtWatch International and ArtWatch UK  serve as an international advocates for the conservation and stewardship of historically significant works of art and cultural monuments.

Upon Scott’s return from Russia, Mason was introduced through written correspondence to one of Russia’s principle advocates of art conservation, Dr. Anatoly Aloyshin.  Aloyshin was the director of the restoration department at the Ilya Repin St. Petersburg State Academic Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.  Aloyshin trained over 80% of the Hermitage’s current restorers who are taught techniques of traditional painting at the Repin Institute before going on to an intensive restoration program and are then finally hand selected to serve as restorers for the Hermitage.  This drew Mason’s interest as he, too, taught traditional techniques and classical principles at the Art Students League of New York for over a half century.  Mason passed along principles related to the uniformity of light on form enveloped in atmosphere.  This philosophy allowed his students to recognize the difference between a proper art restoration versus one that disturbs subtleties in appearance designed by the original intention of the artist.

In September of 2004, Mason attended a lecture at Sotheby’s New York where he heard Dr. Piotrovsky give a lecture entitled, “The Fate of Universal Museums”.  At the end of the lecture Prof. Nebolsine asked Dr. Piotrovsky how the Hermitage intended to carry out its restoration practices as they launch into a new era of museum stewardship.  Dr. Piotrovsky replied, “that the Hermitage had no intentions of scrubbing its paintings”. From that day forward Mason held the Hermitage Museum in the highest regard and became an advocate of the museum’s conservative restoration practices.  It is for this reason that the Frank Mason Estate has donated one of its most recognized and admired murals to a world class, encyclopedic museum of art whose expansion will soon include American 20th and 21st century artists.  This contemporary wing of the museum will open it’s doors into the magnificent General Staff Building adjacent to the main museum in 2014.

The Frank Mason Estate would like to thank Prof. Arcadi Nebolsine for encouraging this acquisition, Generale Gianalfonso D’Avossa for facilitating the process, Dr. Victor Faybisovich for carrying out the execution of its delivery and Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky for granting “Little Italy” a deserved place in the Hermitage collection.  Finally, the Estate would like to donate this mural in the memory of Frank Mason and Dr. Anatoly Aloyshin whose lives, work and tested principles exemplify the great history and artistic achievements that our cultural institutions are built upon.

Lithographs of “Little Italy” are available for sale through the Frank Mason Estate.  Click here if interested in viewing and purchasing one of these limited series lithographs or care to navigate Frank Mason’s online collection of paintings at  Also, if interested in learning more about Frank Mason and his prolific career as an artist please click here.  You can also scroll to the next post below to find out how to order a DVD of the feature length documentary film, “A Light in the Dark: The Art and Life of Frank Mason”.


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Get your copy of “A Light in the Dark”

Order your personal copy of “A Light in the Dark: The Art and Life of Frank Mason” on DVD.

Thank you for your interest in owning a copy of “A LIGHT IN THE DARK: THE ART AND LIFE OF FRANK MASON”. The DVDs are now available! Upon receipt of payment your DVD will be shipped within a week. If you need a rush order, please respond to this email requesting a specific “arrive by” date (additional shipping fees may apply).
The price of each DVD is $30. We are offering 2 methods of payment:
1. Paypal: This is the most convenient form, as funds are verified promptly and the DVD can be sent out quickly. Payments should be made to this email Accounts can easily be set up and all major credit cards are accepted, as well as paying through a bank account. Please categorize the payment as Other under the Personal tab.
2. Check: Please send checks payable to “Maestro Film Partners, LLC” to the following address:
     Maestro Films
     198 Judah Street
     San Francisco, CA 94122
Once you have made your payment either by paypal or check, please let us know and we will confirm payment once we receive it.
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Photos from the Big Apple Film Festival

Thanks to our good friend Dr. James Graves we have a few more photos to share from the Big Apple Film Festival this past November.

Filmmakers Q & A hosted by Sandy Jordan.

Director, Sonny Quinn, answers a question with Producer, Scott Mason, standing to the right.

To the far right is Stephane Goldsand, director of the short film, “Leap Before You Look“.



Standing outside of Tribeca Cinemas:

(Photo to the right: standing left to right) Sonny Quinn, Terry Graves Windhorst, Arden Mason and Scott Mason.


(to the left) Filmmakers with Anne Mason


Remember to order a copy of our film, “A Light in the Dark: The Art and Life of Frank Mason” before the new year.  This handsomely crafted DVD package makes a perfect holiday gift for friends, family and all art lovers alike!  Just email your name and address to to request a copy.  Further instruction for payment and shipping will be given upon your email order request.

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Big Apple Film Festival generates big turn out!!

Maestro Films has been very busy in the past month so let’s bring you up to speed!

First off, our hats (and berets) are off to all of the festival programmers, coordinators and volunteers at the Big Apple Film Festival.  We had a packed house with standing room only at Tribeca Cinemas in New York City for our NYC premiere of “A Light in the Dark: The Art and Life of Frank Mason” on the evening of November 3rd, 2011.  Just before our feature-length film got under way director Stephane Goldstand screened his 22 minute film “Leap Before You Look”.  It was a humorous and sincere look into his relationship with his wife and their concerns and desires to have a child.  Bravo, Stephane!  We wish you success and good fortune in all your ventures.

We also had a great time the following two days after the film screening when we invited friends, family and film festival goers to join us at Frank Mason’s former art studio.  We had around 200 people who successfully made the 5 flight stair climb (“stare, then climb”) up to the Little Italy open studio.  Visitors were able to walk through the gallery and, if they hadn’t already, experience first hand the sensation of stepping into another century complete with ancient statues, jars of colorful pigments and the smell of linseed oil still lingering in the air.  Sonny and I had a great time meeting and greeting new faces and revisiting old friends and colleagues – which was apparent judging by the photo below.

Now . . . after having completed our successful film festival circuit we are officially ready for distribution (hence our gestures of celebration and onward charge).  If you are interested in pre-ordering a copy of the film please send an email to and include in the body of your email how many DVDs you would like, your address and any other vitals you feel are necessary, then we’ll put you on the list and notify you about methods of payment and dates for send out.  You can put in orders now.  Distribution shall begin in early December!

Here’s a brief synopsis:

“Our greatest works of art are being destroyed!  Fine Art painter and educator, Frank Mason, reveals the scandal  behind art restoration and fights to preserve our cultural heritage.  Art lovers will be delighted and challenged.

A Light in the Dark captures the spirit of an authentic American Master.  Frank Mason’s story is of a classical man of integrity who championed the proper preservation of historical treasures.   This documentary is powerful on screen, rich in scholarship and destined to be relevant for future generations.”


Finally, lot’s of people have been asking us, “What’s next for you guys?”  We have some exciting projects that are currently underway.  Recently, Producer Scott Mason completed a short, fun project with some talented filmmakers and actors from San Francisco.  Directed by Ina Bagne and shot by Marlon Torres featuring Baily Hopkins & “the famously red-bearded” Ryan Ackerberg, it is a 30 second Doritos commercial which was recently submitted for the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” competition.  Filmmakers from around the country submit action packed, humorous or artfully creative commercials to be consider for a commercial slot for this coming Super Bowl XLVI.  Our teams’ commercial has elements of all 3.  Click on the link below to watch the commercial:

You can click on this link:

If it doesn’t directly link you to our commercial go to the gallery section search bar (lower right of the screen) and enter “Dorito Beard”.  Two commercials pop up under that title – the “Intelligent Window Cleaner” is Scott’s.  Tell all your friends and ramp up our number of views.  Who knows – you could be seeing it live during the game come February.

In other news, Sonny Quinn and Scott Mason have teamed up for yet another documentary film project.  This documentary, still in it’s early stages, is about a minor league professional hockey team in New Jersey.  We don’t want to let the cat out of the bag just yet so stay tuned for more details.  What we can say is that this is an entirely different topic of interest from our recent fine art documentary.  But given Sonny’s sports background playing and filming competitive collegiate football and Scott’s interest in hockey growing up in a big PA hockey town, we thought this would be a perfect venture to show the breadth of what we can film.  We are excited to bring together again the highest quality film making and storytelling ability that brought us our first film festival kudos with “A Light in the Dark”.

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NYC Premiere in Tribeca Nov 3rd!!

“A Light in the Dark: The Art & Life of Frank Mason” will host it’s NYC premiere on November 3, 2011 at the Big Apple Film Festival!

“A Light in the Dark:  The Art & Life of Frank Mason” will have it’s East coast premiere on November 3rd at 7:30pm at the Big Apple Film Festival at Tribeca Cinemas Theater 1.  This date falls exactly 6 months after our west coast premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival which was held on May 3rd, 2011.

To celebrate the NYC screening Anne and Scott Mason will host an open studio reception in Little Italy at Frank Mason’s former studio where festival goers can view original artwork from the film and meet the filmmakers.

Open Art Studio Hours:

Friday, Nov. 4th from 4-8pm and Saturday, Nov 5th from 1-4pm.  The Studio is located at 385 Broome St. corner of Mulberry St. in the heart of Little Italy.

Buy tickets online through the Big Apple Film Festival website now through October 23rd.  But don’t wait, tickets are going fast!

Program 15, Thurs. Nov 3rd at 7:30pm

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Museum Musings blog mentions Frank Mason

Although this blog entry by Julian Bickersteth dates back to just after Frank Mason’s passing in the summer of 2009, the content is still very relevant to today’s debates over the damages caused by poor art restoration.  Our documentary film is not only a testament to the great painterly skills and vibrant life force of Frank Mason.  It is also a motion picture survey that brings full attention to the concerns he had over art restoration, especially the restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.  What should have resulted in an exhaustive session of public debates to argue the pros and cons of restoring the frescoes, ended up becoming a Vatican instigated PR campaign to quiet or denigrate any one who objected to the ongoing cleanings.

I think it is wise of Mr. Bickersteth to conclude his entry with the line, “I’m a great fan of the cleaning of the Sistine Chapel, but I am an even bigger fan of having these types of discussions as only by such debate do we ensure we can get it right more times than we don’t.”  Of course, Frank Mason was not a “fan” of the cleaning and urged the art community to have these public debates.  Unfortunately, not many restorers during the mid-80s felt the moral responsibility to consider any opinions outside of their small elite circle of experts. Had Frank gotten his wish they might have “got it right” and preserved Michelangelo’s final glazes of liquid shadow, which gave his figures and trompe l’oeil architecture that once dramatic sculptural effect.

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Met expansion and NY Times article


Link to Holland Cotter’s article here.

In case you missed it, there was a very insightful art article on the cover of the Arts&Leisure section of the Sunday NY Times yesterday.  Holland Cotter brings up some exceptional points about what role the Met should play in the world of art and how it should consider exhibiting and managing it’s encyclopedic collection.

When I was visiting the Met one summer a few years back with the former Director of the Met, Tom Hoving (who was disguised in a loud Hawaiian shirt and a large brimmed hat so he wouldn’t be recognized by the guards and staff) – we stopped just behind the grand stairwell.  The stairwell, in fact, that Hoving wanted to clear out back during his tenure to make way for a grand hall that extended to the back of the museum.  He pointed down at the tiled floor and whispered to me.  Do you know how much art is stored down below this museum?  Why do you think they have acquired so much?

He never presented an answer but it has always made me think.  Cotter points out that the Met only displays 10% of it’s collection!  With the recent expansion to the Whitney, I’m starting to understand what Hoving was digging at.

Just to end with a few quotes form Cotter’s article that are very relevant to “A Light int he Dark” and Frank Mason’s philosophy;

“The upside of the museum boom of the past 40 years is that everybody goes to museums.  The downside is nobody’s really there.”

“Now, I feel, enough already with connectivity and engagement.  Give us some wisdom.”

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OCMA screening and OC Arts & Culture article

Click here to read Matt Knapil’s review of our film in the OC Arts and Culture titled, “Cleanliness is Not Next to Godliness” published on June 24th, 2011.

Thanks again to the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Orange County Museum of Art for inviting us to screen our film at the OCMA summer Cinema Orange program.  A special thank you to Kelly Bishop (left) and Leslie Feibleman (right) for hosting a successful event at the museum.

The filmmakers, Scott and Sonny, started off the evening meandering through an impressive and well curated exhibition of Alexander Calder mobiles and sculptures.   Calder was a student at the famed Art Students League of New York where Frank Mason taught for over half a century, so at the start we knew we were in good company.  The screening was outdoors in the pavilion courtyard of the museum.  Although it was a bit overcast it was a nice evening and after some brief introductions with our audience we were able to sit back and enjoy “A Light in the Dark” on the big screen under the stars . . . well, clouds.

After the screening our audience gathered inside the pavilion hall to sit down with the filmmakers for a Q&A.  We were stationed next to 3 of Frank Mason’s original oil paintings courtesy of Wendt Gallery and displayed on table easels provided by  Randy Higbee Gallery.

We’ll be posting our Q&A footage next week, so stay tuned!


And, thank you to Lisa Silagyi, OCMA Arts Education Dept., and Wendy Brooks, Arts Commissioner of Newport Beach (centered below), for allowing us to film and photograph the event.  If you’re interested in viewing more pictures from this evening link here to Ed Melliza’s photography website.  Thank you Ed for your excellent coverage and thank you to everyone who helped make our Cinema Orange screening a success!

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Honorable Mention at LA ART-HOUSE FILM FEST

We are proud to announce “A Light in the Dark” recently received an honorable mention (one of the top 10 selected documentary feature films) at the 2011 LA Art-House Film Festival!

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OC Weekly article and OC/LA trip

Thank you once again to Newport Beach Film Festival and Orange County Museum of Art for a fantastic evening.  We had a great turn out for the outdoor screening and a very interesting Q&A which you’ll be able to watch when we post it on this site in a few days.  A special thanks to Kelly, Leslie, Alan, Randy, Ed, Jerry, Kris and Kierstin (the Olson twins).

OC Weekly article:  “Art Jumps From Canvas to Screen”

Also, a very big thanks to Mitchell Block for meeting with us before the screening on Thursday in Santa Monica.  Not only is his company, Direct Cinema Ltd., responsible for some of the most well known documentaries of all time – in addition Mitchell has some incredible projects lined up for the coming months.  Read his Docunomics blog to get the inside scoop on producing documentaries for PBS and nationalo distribution.

Friday was also a very eventful day.  In the morning we were invited down to the Lido in Newport Beach to visit the studio of classical violinist and violin maker, Boris Odio de Granda.  His studio was reminiscent of Frank’s in NYC with ground pigments and mediums that Boris cooks up to varnish his hand made violins.  In this picture he’s showing us his hand ground rose madder pigment.


Back in LA we had the opportunity to visit the Eliots in Venice Beach.  Alex and Jane were both in our film and shared with us their footage of the Sistine Chapel from the 60’s which we incorporated into our film.  Thanks to their son, Jefferson, the 35mm reel was able to be salvaged and digitized for our use.  His wife, Kendell, comes from a family of dancers and their children Jasper and Sidney are both extremely talented artists in their own right.  After seeing our documentary Jasper (pictured lower center) pronounced to his folks, “I’ve probably done about 1,000 drawings in my life and I have about 1,000 more in my head.  A lot of them I can picture, but I don’t know how to draw them yet.”  What a statement – spoken like a true artist!

And finally, Sonny and I had the very great pleasure to meet an famed actor and all around man of the world, Frank Arno, at Glenn Deli off of Mulholland Drive.  Frank was an inspiration.  He told us never before heard stories about his friends Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and his experiences working on the first Godfather.  He had so many stories we wanted to make our next doc on him.  However, he’s been offered before but has passed since he still has stories to create.  Keep an eye out for his next project – which I can’t divulge until it’s in production.


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