Red Alexander Shipwright and Folk Artist – Video

DVD202Red Alexander: Shipwright and Folk Artist

Directed by Chris Simon

The Arhoolie Foundation produced this lovely documentary film about Robert ‘Red’ Alexander, a shipwright and folk artist who builds miniature ships in bottles, among other projects. Funding came from Archie Green and the local shipwright union. Arhoolie Foundation (AF DVD 202)

This delightful 30 minute visit with 80 year old Robert ‘Red’ Alexander documents his lifelong passion: ship building (both model and real). By the age of 10 he had discovered the Oakland waterfront and was making detailed wood models of the ships he saw there. In 1934 he joined the Shipwrights, Joiners, and Boat Builders Union – Local 1149, and he worked for the next 46 years as a boat builder, shipwright and dock master on the Oakland estuary. During his time on the waterfront, Red saw the Oakland estuary change from a shallow backwater to a modern harbor. With this evolution his work also changed: many of the traditional aspects of the craft were almost lost as the basic materials changed from wood to plastic and steel. But with his models, Red remained true to his beloved wooden boats and ships. Today his kitchen is a studio where he makes intricate models of all types of working ships and boats – tugs, scows, liners, container ships. This moving portrayal of a true folk artist and natural born storyteller is woven through with music and tales of his days as a shipwright. Red is visited by filmmaker Chris Simon and folklorist and fellow union member, Archie Green. 

Statement on the passing of Chris Strachwitz

Arhoolie Records Founder
July 1, 1931 – May 5, 2023

We celebrate the life of our founder, friend, and great record man Chris Strachwitz. He died peacefully at home in Marin County, CA, surrounded in his last days by dear friends and family. Over his 91 years, Chris captured the music that represents the best “down home music” the world has to offer.

He was at the forefront of nearly all the roots revivals over the last 60 years including blues, zydeco, Cajun, Norteño and Tejano music. His drive to document traditional music helped introduce the nation to our diverse musical heritage. He had the foresight to save music that might have otherwise been lost to obscurity and played a role in strengthening cultural traditions through his records, films, and most recently the Arhoolie Foundation. He cared for those around him, fought for royalties and recognition for Arhoolie artists, and provided counsel to countless musicians, writers, film makers, and academics.

Plans for a public celebration of his life will be announced in the coming weeks. Today we’re thinking of all that Chris brought to our lives and the lives of the musicians and fans with whom he shared his passion.