Street Artist Tony DeSales’ Life Story Wins
Benjamin Franklin Awards’ Silver Medallion

As announced by Publishers Marketing Association at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles, May 28, 2003, Baltimore’s Own Little Italy Artist – The artwork of Tony DeSales, by Rita D. French, Perrin L. French and Irvin F. Lin (Genovefa Press, © 2003, $29.95), was accorded the Silver Medallion of the Benjamin Franklin Awards for this year’s most outstanding publications in the category Autobiography/Biography/Memoirs.

Did you ever visit Baltimore and go to the city’s “Little Italy”? Chances are if you did, you encountered Tony DeSales (1941-2000), perhaps accompanied by the invalid mother to whose care he devoted much of his life. A latter day “Renaissance man,” albeit largely self-taught, DeSales was a street artist with equally strong suits in poetry, math, music and social commentary. Purveying his drawings and conversing with passers by on the corner of Fawn and High Streets, DeSales served, in the words of former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer, an uninterrupted term of thirty-five years as “Baltimore’s best and truest ambassador.”

It is a rare thing to be afforded in print a sustained glimpse at the pathos and unrefined genius that make up the life of a street artist. Only through some of that same spark of talent and intellect alighting in a sister has this instance come to pass. Rita deSales, child of the same East Baltimore streets, after graduating high school, worked as a lab technician at Baltimore’s renowned Johns Hopkins Medical School, where she met and married a medical student, Perrin French. She subsequently went on herself to higher education, eventually obtaining both a Masters degree in Education and a PhD in Psychology from Stanford University. Michael Olesker, in a full column devoted in the Sun newspaper (12/1/02) to Baltimore’s Own Little Italy Artist, summed up the work as a “labor of love.” For the Baltimore City Paper (5/28/03), the biography synopsized down to the word “heartbreaker,” while Hopkins Medical News (Spring/Summer 2003) felt “…something about this book will grip at your throat. There’s love and quirkiness emanating from this lush coffee table book – a mood entirely fitting its subject.” Nancy Pelosi, Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, simply experienced the book as “a beautifully conceived narrative” and “truly a treasure.”

The final impetus propelling the panel of judges to pick this book for the Benjamin Franklin Awards’ Silver Medallion may well have been the unique manner in which it seamlessly blends rich local history with the life and drawings of its subject. This aspect of the book is strong enough by itself to have caused University of Maryland (Baltimore County) President Freeman Hrabowski to hail it as “a valuable resource to anyone wanting to gain a full appreciation of life in Baltimore and its surrounding areas.” The Baltimore City Paper article by Tom Chalkley (5/28/03) expressed a similar appreciation of the book’s historical highlights, identifying the work as a “Bawlmer guidebook” with a compilation of local lore that “belongs on the Baltimore bookshelf alongside [the most beloved books of the genre].” Chalkley writes “French and her co-authors [with]…brisk, literate prose…draw on many sources, yet manage to boil the copious material down to its most interesting essentials and gemlike factoids.” In the words of Hopkins Medical News (Spring/Summer 2003), “even Baltimore natives will learn a lot here.”

Baltimore’s Own Little Italy Artist – The artwork of Tony DeSales (Genovefa Press © 2003, ISBN 0972359001) is a clothbound 8.5” x 11” edition of coffee table quality, complete with bibliography, full index and map. It is 244 pages and retails for $29.95 at Borders, Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks, Readings and Greetings, Home Town Girl, and other fine bookstores, as well as on the web from, and Contact: Rita French, (650) 324-0575, or via email: