Sicilian Folk Art

Santo Rizza

Santo Rizza (1901-1989)
Builder, Sculptor

Santo Rizza lived during tumultuous times. His experience of his country was hardly that of what many people today know of and think about when they hear the word “Italy.” Born the eldest of seven children in 1901, Santo saw the country transition from monarchy, to dictatorship, to democracy and independence. 

Santo did not have the opportunity to attend formal schooling. Instead, he learned building and construction from his father, who worked as a craftsman and builder. Having served in the two World Wars, Santo realized that Italy was transitioning and fast changing: By the end of WWII, Italy’s industrial boom and use of heavy machinery led to a steep decline in demand for Santo’s signature craft, namely hand-crafted ceiling medallions and crown molding for homes.

Disappointed that the unique, hand-crafted aspect to producing home fixtures was being lost due to manufacturing and mass production, Santo pursued a career in construction.

From left to right. Concetta Rizza, Santo Rizza, Tina Rizza, Maria Rizza.