Q&A with Grandson of Mount Rushmore Carver (and Port Chester Resident)
Mount Luigi: One of the carvers of Mount Rushmore was a Westchesterite—and his grandson is making sure he gets recognized for it.
Lou Del Bianco with his grandfather’s likeness in marble
Port Chester’s Lou Del Bianco has been performing for young audiences since 1987. While all his shows use storytelling, music, and theater to connect with elementary-school children, it’s the personal connection to his late grandfather, Luigi, that makes one of his shows especially memorable.
An Italian immigrant who was a skilled stone carver, Luigi Del Bianco settled in Port Chester in the early 1920s and, soon after, met the famous Danish-American sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Throughout the 1920s, Luigi assisted Borglum on various projects, and, beginning in 1933, their collaboration led to Luigi joining Borglum in South Dakota—to work on the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Most people, however, were unaware of Luigi’s unique contributions—despite Borglum’s own papers in the Library of Congress extolling Del Bianco’s work, which included Abraham Lincoln’s lifelike eyes—until Lou and his late uncle, Caesar Del Bianco, began touting them. Lou spreads the word about his grandfather through a newsletter, a website (luigimountrushmore.com), an e-book—and, of course, his one-man show, In the Shadow of the Mountain, which he performed at Mount Rushmore on July 3, 2011.
The 50-year-old Del Bianco recently spoke with Westchester Magazine about his efforts to honor his grandfather:
How emotional was it for you when you appeared at Mount Rushmore?
The day before, my wife and I went to the sculptor’s studio where the performances would take place. Next to the models of the four presidents is a large window with a perfect view of Mount Rushmore. I remember looking up at it and imagining my grandfather up there carving Lincoln’s eyes. I could see him looking down at me and smiling, as if to say, ‘Thank you.’ And I lost it. I actually never realized how emotional this whole journey had been for me until that moment.
You were only 6 years old when your grandfather passed away in 1969. What do you remember most about the Sundays you spent with him at his apartment?
I vividly remember the marble bust my grandfather carved of himself when he was a young man. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. My grandfather was very sick at this point, but he always managed to get out of bed and lead me to that bust. I would stand on a chair and feel that marble face.
Luigi Del Bianco Day was celebrated in Port Chester on March 14, 2012. What did that mean to your family?
It was a wonderful day. The Village of Port Chester got together to honor one of their own.
On the occasion of the Town of Rye’s 350th Anniversary Celebration, Town Supervisor Joe Carvin called your work ‘inspirational.’ How do you think you’ve inspired the future generation?
In the Shadow of the Mountain is a show about many things. First, the show gives kids a whole new perspective on how we should read different sides of history to have a more well-rounded sense of it. It is also a show about heritage. I always tell school children to go and talk to their parents and grandparents and find out their life stories. The most important thing to me is to do work that inspires me. I’d like to think my grandfather was led by the same compass: Do what you love, work hard, and the rest will take care of itself.
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