Home / Entertainment / Interview with Artist Alfred Mira

Interview with Artist Alfred Mira

Click here to listen to an audio version of this interview.

We visited Alfred Mira to know how he reinvents his job. For him, time stopped while painting nice American gardens. He drives an old automobile from the Sixties, painted white and pink with the slogan “God Bless You” all over it, and he lives with memories of his Italian aunts and his Sicilian father.

A monk in the Sixties, Mira later married twice. Now he’s a superintendent of a student housing building, where he lives in a basement with exposed sewer pipes. He prints bookmarks and religious postcards with an old printing machine and he sends them in the mail to people who send him money. He’s a man with a lot of culture, but he has two daughters that can’t afford to go to college.

Alfred Mira

Even though it’s trendy to have a garden behind your house, Alfred admits he wouldn’t even be able to plant basil. Nevertheless, he has always been an old dreamer: “Since the start of century,” he says, “American people have changed a lot compared with how other populations changed. In 1945, my Italian family lived in New York and my aunt had a hen house behind her home, in the street. But now the law says that you can’t keep hens and chickens. There’s a lot of economic interest by corporations. All has to be enlarged, big, consumed in big portions. You know, when we were children we used to have fun shooting fake bullets at my aunt’s chickens and then when she cooked them we would find them in our dish. Now we can’t have a hen house in the garden also because neighors would complain about the noise and smells.”

“My father was Sicilian: he told me about his participation in World War I and when he went without water for one week. But he was lucky: after one month the Army laid him off and sent him home. After all these sacrifices, it’s normal to forget where we come from, especially when you live in prosperity and plenty. Perhaps this is a good thing and a misfortune at the same time for the American middle class: they want to have it all and now, to be comfortable on the couch and have everything nearby, in fact a long time ago I used to paint still-lives and food more often than I do now.”

Why do you paint pictures of these sometimes opulent Massachusetts houses?

“In the beginning, I did portraits, I painted faces… of all of the creatures in the universe, I love people the most, they are the most beautiful things, and so I painted their portraits for many years. But now people are always in a rush, they can’t manage to keep an appointment for a sitting, and they make me crazy. A very personal thing to them, however, is their house, and so instead of painting them, I paint what they like, their home. So that’s how I make a living… I like seeing faces when doing something important, even eating. This is hard for an American to see, since food isn’t that important to them.”

I think there are faces in your paintings that seem sad or worn out, but that hide happiness.

“Well, in the past my paintings were rather serious. Today there are always people that have a forced smile showing their teeth, they aren’t spontaneous, and I don’t paint those types of people. When a person is posing, we are communicating… and while I paint you, you are changing expressions and I capture the movements, the looks, and the varied expressions, maybe one eye has a certain expression and the other doesn’t, and then when I see the portrait it seems partially alive with many expressions, and in that moment a portrait is successful. I remember one person said that there were 15 different expressions in a painting I did of their son.”

About Emanuele Capoano

Emanuele is a correspondent for the Tuscan magazine LoSchermo.it and is also a theatrical actor. Before coming to Boston to teach Italian, he was a freelance radio journalist in Florence, Italy.

28 comments

  1. the Rev. Carl Stiglich

    I was a chaplain in the NYS prison system. Alfred was so generous with his “God Bless You” cards and other materials. For decades I have seen his printed materials and my inmates loved the cards and bookmarks and sent them to their families. He has sent over 127,000,000 cards since 1969. His “God Bless You” cards and “Jesus in Me Loves You” have blessed countless people. On the back of my Honda I have a fish shaped Jesus that I love.

    His generosity and artistic style of printing is absolutely marvelous.

    Thank you for the interview. Now I know a bit about a man who as blessed me with his work.

    PoP

  2. I knew Alfred Mira from 1971 on as a gentle soul, that was driven to do a painting a day, in order to support his father in a nursing home. He did all my family, friends, and many employees. Nice to hear of him, I will have to visit him

  3. Charlotte A Benninghoff

    Dear Alfred Mira, back in the 60’s I sent for “Thousands For Free” and passed them out to many varied people and Sunday School children that I taught through the years. They were always a blessing, and I was so happy to have something so beautiful to give. I finally, many years ago, finished my supply. Lately I have been thinking that they would be so nice to slip in with my dried flower art work that I do by hand. So, now the question—“Do you still make the “God bless you!” And the “Jesus In Me Loves You!” I would be so pleased if you had any made up, on hand. Please let me know and also the charge for them. I was so happy to see your article on the Comp after I put your name into Google. God bless you Alfred, “old dreamer” I’m an “old dreamer” too, Charlotte

    • Hi,
      I’m running low on my God Bless You cards, which everyone always loves. Please let me know if I can
      mail a check into the 1318 Commonwealth Ave address & receive some more. Thanks for your kind
      help with this matter.
      Sincerely,
      Sharon R. Sawyers, PO Box 278, Houghton Lake Heights, MI 48630

  4. Hello Charlotte, I’m the author of this article. I’m not Alfred Mira. But if you want more of those cards with “GOD BLESS YOU”…I forwarded your email adress directly to Alfred. He perhaps will let you know.

    • Emanuele, I am thrilled to come across this article. Actually, my brother sent me the link. My dad and Alfred were friends. Every time I see one of those ‘GOD BLESS YOU’ signs, I think… ‘Dad’s here!!’ Now that dad is no longer (physically) with us, I may have to keep the ‘Legacy’ alive..!! Dad also commissioned them in ‘Portuguese’, I think… ‘DEUS TE ABENÇOE’… As Charlotte, I also wondered if he was still doing the same thing..! I would love to see some of his other work, too. I have an 8-yr old granddaughter and 4.5 yr old grandson, whose portraits I may want done..! Bless you for doing this!! You may send along my email address to him. Thank you and GOD BLESS YOU..!!

  5. Cheryl Diane Carter

    Hello Emanuele,

    I have been trying to verify Alfred Mira’s address ~ to order some of his colorful “God bless you!” bookmarks ~ however, it appears that he is no longer at the Commonwealth address. During my search for Mr. Mira, I was blessed to find your article and the encouraging comments that others have posted. I did not know about his cards and “The Jesus in me loves you!” products…

    I would appreciate receiving information on how I may contact Mr. Mira in order to purchase the bookmarks and his other products.

    Grace and Peace,
    Cheryl

  6. Yes, the ALFRED MIRA’S ADDRESS IS 1318 COMMONWEALTH AV. 02134 ALLSTON

  7. Just bought your ” Eggs In A Pan ” at the Jamaican party at St. Ignastia Church Chestnut Hill last evening – They bid it up to $ 600.00 – I love it – – thanks for your talent . I teach painting at my Art Academy here in West Roxbury each Monday at St. John Chrysostom Church on Washington St. – I’ll bring your painting to inspire them all !

  8. I read that Alfred Mira died in 1980. Is the the same Alfred Mira that makes the “God Bless You” cards? If not, can I still order them? Please advise.
    Patricia

  9. His father (who was another painter) died in 1980. Alfred Mira jr is still alive and happy with his “God Bless You” cards in 1318 COMMONWEALTH AV. 02134 ALLSTON

    • I have given away nearly all of my GOD BLESS YOU cards. I give them out when I teach seminary students and train teachers to teach Sunday School. If you are still giving them away, PLEASE send me more – I am spreading the word.

      Barbara Bruce 7358 East River Road – Rush, NY 14543

  10. Hi,
    I’m running low on my God Bless You cards, which everyone always loves. Please let me know if I can
    mail a check into the 1318 Commonwealth Ave address & receive some more. Thanks for your kind
    help with this matter.
    Sincerely,

  11. Adress is above, among the comments.

  12. Emanuele,

    I have the most amazing story to share. I was getting ready to post my own story about Alfred and I thought, let me do a google search first and I found your lovely article.

    ————————-

    Alfred Mira, the God Bless You man. Alfred has been hand printing God Bless You! cards since 1978. I first noticed these cards around campus when I was a student at Boston University. I wondered where they came from, what their purpose was, and who made them.

    I graduated in 1980, moved to the Boston suburbs and at the end of 1989, I moved to the Philadelphia suburbs. We had two sons and in 2008 our youngest son, Brian, decided to visit Boston University. He liked the urban campus, applied and was accepted. In late August of 2009 we saw him off.

    In January of 2012, Brian moved to a new apartment at 1318 Comm. Ave in Allston. We were trying to hook up his internet/cable and I decided to check in the basement to see if I might get lucky instead of needing to wait 3 days for Comcast to show up.

    I was looking around and I noticed a God Bless You! card stuck to an electrical cabinet with a magnet. At first I didn’t know what I was seeing. It had been over 30 years since I last saw one. I continued to look around the basement. It was clean and well kept. Then I heard a noise from a back corner and a voice asked “Can I help you?”

    I’m not shy. I started a convesation with this unusual man. He was very kind and willing to talk. I learned that he was an artist and the superintendent of the building. I learned that he lived right there in an apartment in the basement. I asked if he had some of his pictures there. “Yes,” he said. “Can I see your work?” I asked. Alfred invited me in.

    I mentioned that my son was a student at Boston University and had just moved in upstairs. I mentioned that I too had gone to Boston University, that I graduated in 1980, and that life took me to the Philly area. He said “Ah, you got out. I went to school here and never left.”

    We entered his work room studio and there on the unfinished plywood walls were a mixture of his oil paintings and some other miscellaneous items.

    Then I noticed a pile of rainbow colored cards. “What are these,” I asked? Alfred then showed me his ‘ministry’. “I’ve been making them for over 40 years” he explained. I mail out thousands at a time for free.

    Over 30 years after I wondered about the origins of the God Bless You! cards, I found the guy! My hair stood on end as I pondered the improbability of it all. After graduating college, starting a career, getting married, moving several times, having two sons, a new generation in college, and an unusual mid-school-year apartment switch, the Universe had finally answered the question I asked myself over 30 years ago.

    Alfred still runs his ministry, which is now in its 44th year. He silk screens each set of cards by hand, cuts them using an old-fashioned hand-cranked cutter, packages them up, and mails them out by the thousands at no charge. By one estimate, Alfred has mailed out over 127 million cards over the years.

    Since I had been gone so long, my wife sent my son down to see what I was up to. He found us talking and I asked Alfred if he would mind if my son Brian took a picture of us together. I had to commemorate this event!

    I left with a handful of the God Bless You! cards to distribute myself. Now that I knew what they were and where to get them, I planned to become a part of the God Bless You! ministry myself.

    You can order your own God Bless You! cards at the following address:

    Thousands for Free
    Alfred Mira
    1318 Commonwealth Ave
    Allston, MA 02134

    The cards are offered completely free, although Alfred will accept a donation if you wish to help defray some of his costs.

    I also met his wife and one of his grown children while we were visiting. I asked him to look after our son, and of course, he agreed. Some of you reading this know that my wife and I are Jewish. Knowing now that he was a religious man, I wished him a Shabbat Shalom. Ever since, if he sees our son on Shabbat, Alfred wishes him a Shabbat Shalom.

    After I left and we had done some more work making Brian’s apartment homey, we went for a walk to get some lunch. As we were walking I noticed an old 1960’s Volvo coming up behind us. I said to Brian, “Hey check that out.” As the Volvo passed us I noticed Alfred at the wheel, and we saw, painted in large letters across the back, “God Bless You!” :-)

    God Bless You too, Alfred!

    ——–

    Some photos I took with Alfred:
    https://plus.google.com/photos/103923505921626240229/albums/5869714553664673841

  13. Jan Wojtalewski

    My students at Blessed Sacrament School, Syracuse, NY love the bookmarks I put out for them that we have received in the past. I would love to receive more ( with my donation) if possible. Our school has grades Pre-k thru 6th grade. They love the colors and sayings. Please let me know.

    Jan Wojtalewski ,3129 James Street, Syracuse, NY, 13206

  14. My son moved into the apartment building on Commonwealth Ave. last spring and soon after, met Alfred. He told me how interesting he was as well as being pleasant and friendly. We wondered how many stories he must have about the comings and goings of residents throughout the years. We thought he could be in a documentary or write a book! When we visit our son, Alfred always greets us and treats us to good humored stories and experiences. Now, we know his background too! A truly unique and gentle soul.

    Wendy and Rich Rapkin
    Hillsborough, NJ

  15. i have a oil painting on canvas signed right lower corner mira. ihave seen other works by him but the signature is different. which is the real one?

  16. IF ALFRED MIRA SENIOR DIED IN 1980 . THEN I HAVE AN ALFRED SENIOR PAINTING. THAT ACCOUNTS FOR THE DIFFERENT SIGNATURE.

  17. After all these years I found this website to see if Alfred Mira was still alive. When I lived at 195 Commonwealth Avenue in the 60’s (not seventies) 1968-69 I was given a long box of these JESUS inME LOVES YOU and GOD BLESS YOU cards. The box has been with me all these years and I have given them out in Christmas Easter Birthday cards and the hundreds of students that I have taught over the years. Now I am retired fromTeaching. Just yesterday I was carrying my box of cards (still have a couple left) down the stairs and they fell out…where I was able to see on the back of one card “ALFRED MIRA!” I forgot where they came from and am so blessed to finally know. I treasured these little cards. I think they multiplied in the box! is this Alfred Mira from1968 still alive? I am an old lady (well only 65+) but was just a high school grad when I got my “blessing box”. I would like to send this precious man some money for all the times he has blessed me and others through these cards. Does anybody know how I may contact him?

  18. Dianne, read please in the comments above and you’ll read his address. Thanks.

  19. Wondering how to find out what his signature looks like. Know of 2 portraits that may be painted by him.

  20. I would also like to receive the God Bless you cards. I received one from a friend. Are there other statement cards>

    Thank you

    Bonni Korn