“Skin in the game”: An interview with Artist and Organizer Barrie Cline

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

How one New York City based visual artist and educator brings together a passion for sculptural practices with her commitment to union organizing, artistic collaboration, and teaching about art with rank and file workers.

Gregory Sholette: Labor issues, particularly those of immigrant workers, along with union organizing, as well as environmental activism by workers—these have all been significant themes in your artistic practice for decades Barrie, as well as your work in education. Could you tell us why this constellation of topics is so important to you as a visual artist? After all, so much contemporary art focuses on either creating novel, or often disturbing images that many working-class people find difficult to relate to, or even repelling, or it celebrates identity in ways that often reduce entire groups of people to so many essentialist attributes.

Barrie Cline: My youth afforded me many experiences with NYC  subcultures (punk/hardcore, subway graffiti, homesteading/squatting, club culture) that nurtured an affinity for creativity and activism outside of the mainstream and definitely outside the academy, where, perhaps ironically, I received my own higher educational degrees later in life. But because of this unconventional background, I had the opportunity to develop art classes in a labor studies program that itself has/had a framing of issues of immigration and climate justice in terms of centering all worker’s rights and labor protections. During the course of my own practice, capacity, opportunities, funding, and frankly the movement towards green energy in the unions I’m involved with, have directed this practice more toward climate justice though, with some recent exceptions.  

GS: But I wonder exactly how your interests and your involvement in marginalized and DIY art practices in the 1980s later opened up a pathway for you to study art and organized labor, Barrie? Do you see these as somehow connected? Or are these the types of practices that were for a long time left out of mainstream high culture, out of museums, out of art appreciation? Please clarify for us. 

I’ve found it particularly compelling to work on art projects with workers, with those who have ‘skin in the game’ that informs the work.”

BC: My involvement in these practices revealed to me many forms of  “critical consciousness” though I didn’t call it that then. For example, I was obsessed with NYC Subway graffiti of the early 80’s. It’s sophisticated networks and alternative signing system/aesthetic evolution enacted its own critique of capitalism, private property, and the corporatization of the media, while also producing space in the world where structural racism and classism might be transgressed by a kind of guerilla organizing as well as matters of proficiency, placement, and style. Though not without its own problems, the accessibility, collectivity and anti-commodity nature of subway graffiti (the work created under a nom de plume was destined for erasure) fascinated me for its emphasis on merit. One’s prestige was determined by what one could produce and the associations wrought from this production, not by any unfair advantage based on social class. My ideas around this critical consciousness lead to a discussion with the Dean of the labor school, then Michael Merrill, who created a pilot class for me to teach MTA transit managers. Imagine me positioning myself to tell them about subway graffiti! But we all learned a lot, and slowly I have been able to build a small art department within the Labor Studies school since.

Much of the labor school’s emphasis, necessarily, is on the potential real-world power that organized workers can obtain. With the collaborations that grew out of my classes, I’ve found it particularly compelling to work on art projects with workers, with those who have “skin in the game” that informs the work, as well as possibly also nudging their unions along by signaling the critical engagement of the membership and/or a desire for their union to take a more progressive and public stance on certain issues. For example, within the climate justice movement, the term “just transition” means shifting from an extractive to a regenerative economy. This has come to mean reckoning with the disproportionate impact of environmental change on low-income communities, particularly communities of color. Yet Just transition interpreted by Labor (where the term actually originated) has long contended that retraining and other provisions must be in place to mitigate inevitable job loss in any environmental initiatives. The “nudge” comes from an educated organized workforce demanding that neither low- income communities of color OR workers be left behind. 

So most of  the art projects seemed to have a practical aim and demanded a certain legibility and utility to workers—even if not appreciated by high culture. I’m fine with this collaborative art having the fluidity to assume a supporting role even if that means sacrificing some aesthetics in favor of legibility, particularly where there is genuine urgency involving real-world problems like the climate crisis. 

GS: Along similar lines, another important characteristic of your art also bucks fashion by depicting working-class figures in ways that recall the heroic representations of 1930s and 1940s social realism. I am thinking of the metallic vases you made for the project A Rite for Regeneration (IOU), 2021. Does this artistic decision also reflect a desire to make a visual statement that can be more easily accessed by viewers not caught up in the contemporary art world’s endless pursuit of novelty, shock, and some (probably lost) avant-garde aesthetic?

BC: I was interested in creating and collaborating with two union tradeswomen (Rebecca Carlton and Ashly DaCosta) on work where the subject matter was an expression of potential common ground within the climate justice movement such as in the “just transition” principle referenced above in which everything does not devolve into a jobs vs. environment argument. I guess I also mean “common ground” in respect to  folks that might identify as working class,  having something in common with  left intellectuals. For example the statuary and museum dedicated to Mother Jones was created by the United Mine Workers Union. So I was eager to make things legible and reference traditions of crafts, which have their own working class and artisan associations,as well as the social dimension of the USA New Deal’s art initiatives that Rebecca’s mural pays homage to (murals produced during the Work Project Administration’s Federal Art Project from 1935-1943). These WPA employed artists were hired as New Deal “cultural workers.” They aligned themselves with working people and sought to organize their labor, but also represent the common worker as never before or since. I find that kind of alliance compelling, both then and now. Which is why I wanted this collaborative piece, A Rite for Regeneration (IOU), to be understood in that vein. I also like the “all hands on deck” inclusivity of protest aesthetics. By this I mean a non-intimidating artistic form that can express a wide range of messaging about frontline communities, such as indigenous ownership of renewable energy. For example, the “U” of the ceramic installation was a pair of charred tree trunks joined at the bottom with “nature” and  “worker” inscribed on each trunk with wind turbines “growing” out of each trunk and Ashley’s sound piece, What Do You Think is Missing in Discussions Regarding the Climate Crisis? emanating from them as well. Beneath them were handmade buttons and signage about “SAGE” the first Native owned public power company of renewable resources at Standing Rock. I also configured tiles that were photos of actual hand drawn banners I had seen, such as “Labor for Black Lives,” that were reminiscent of the expedient aesthetics found in makeshift public memorials. This work was further enabled by incorporating  a range of labor movement messaging  such as “Protect the Right to Organize” on buttons and tiles. Our collaborative  installation pays homage to the bridging aspects of the Labor Movement, and it suggests the potential for future mobilization in respect to the climate crisis.

GS: Can you explain how the project does this exactly? 

BC: The three ceramic forms spell-out the acronym, IOU. In a sense, it’s my homage to the labor movement, to the workers who died so we could all have the 8-hour day and weekend. But it’s also an IOU to the environment. The Silver vase filled with coal forms the “I,” while the round gold pot filled with hay is the “O,” and the “U” I’ve described above.  These first two letters represent my interpretation of two existing labor monuments: first the coal miner’s Ludlow Massacre (with a Mother Jones bust depicted on the other side of the vase), and second, the Haymarket martyr monument in Chicago. I recently discovered that the martyr monument is typically strewn with improvised offerings, not only of anarchist messaging, but also union buttons, CDs, and messages of gratitude for the 8-hour workday. It has even become the site for marriages between union members.

So indeed, I wanted to pay homage to these time-bridging and visually-accessible representations from labor’s past, but also indicate that there is still a widely shared and invigorating reverence and relevance for these same concerns today, all across the political spectrum, certainly, but particularly amongst the younger generation who are currently regenerating the Labor Movement. Rebecca’s mural, with its tentative lines depicting workers and Ashley’s sound work both emphasize that workers need to be at the center of it all.

GS: Describe for our readers the formation of Workers Art Coalition, including the obviously humorous riff on the Art Workers’ Coalition of the late 1960s. What led you, along with your trade union collaborators, to band together in an art group in 2014.  

BC: 2013 was an important year for my artistic evolution. Not only did I return to school to become a graduate student in the Queens College MFA Program concentrating in social practice art, but it was the year that the Workers Art Coalition was formed. The first decision allowed me to seize upon the tremendous resources, spaces, and opportunities for meeting and collective art-making that CUNY (City University of New York) provided me and several other friends and former students. Our main group was Local 28 sheet metal worker Bobby Andrew and his wife Heidi, Local 3 electricians Jaime Lopez and Paul Vance, Local 157 carpenter Stephanie Lawal, and artist (and fellow Queens College student) Setare Arashloo. Some of the other tradespeople that made a shorter term but key commitment to projects were: Mike Castillo, Mia Foley, Hana Georg, Noel Modica, Sophie Santos, and more recently Sue Sheinin, Lowely Cheung, Rebecca Carlton and Ashly DaCosta. Other artists who have been involved in key roles were Eliza Gagnon and Tatiana Vargas. Some of us were still energized by the fumes of the Occupy movement, and for me, a question raised by art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson about the 1969-1971 Art Workers Coalition (AWC) was particularly inspiring. At the end of her 2009 study, Bryan-Wilson asks, what types of cross-class alliances and forms of organizing might be possible again going forwards. It was this prompt that led me to re-shuffle AWC to become WAC. So, together with several union tradespeople whom I had met in and around the Occupy Movement, as well as a few of my former Van Arsdale students, we established a group identity that referenced the past, but which put Workers, rather than Artists, in its front line. Our newly minted group now had its name. 

GS: It is notable that sheet metal fabrication and pipe fitting became the sculptural techniques in WAC’s early projects. Why was that the case? Did it have to do with the makeup of the coalition itself or its outlook or both? 

“Much of the labor school’s emphasis, necessarily, is on the potential real-world power that organized workers can obtain.”

BC: My initial aspiration for WAC was to experiment with how art-making techniques and ideas could provide tradespeople with a means of expressing their labor-related concerns. In our first group project, Workers Pavilion (I), the materials we used were lightweight, inexpensive, or free because it was being recycled as refuse from job sites. This included aluminum track for drywall construction bent into frames by carpenters, sheet metal cut by the sheet metal workers,  plexiglass sourced from Materials for the Arts, wired up LEDs soldered by the electricians, and photographic images made by the entire group and printed by the Queens College Art Department Digital Lab. There were also some exhibits made by plumbers from plumbing pipe as well as a greywater display. For the worker members of WAC, these are basic tradespeople’s materials which they rarely if ever get to experiment with in ways not tied to a construction job. They were also offered very inexpensive ways to produce lightboxes so that directed some of the choices, as we knew we would need to produce some sort of vehicle that would allow for a uniform presentation of many different works-sort of a horizontal Peace Tower! In later WAC projects the materials were chosen by tradespeople members, particularly by Jaime Lopez and Paul Vance, both members of IBEW Local 3. This further pushed the limits of construction materials and techniques that they worked with everyday, expanding on what craft scholar Glenn Adamson has termed “material intelligence.” Collaborating with trade unionists facilitated drawing on a kind of collaborative spirit and teamwork sensibility that was, for them, a familiar, even standard approach to working together. When we discovered a type of  geometric, angular excellence emerging in this process, well, the aesthetic jolt produced was a great bonus. Still, devising a practical, cost-effective, and recyclable system for our group creations remained the most important priority.

GS: What would you say were WAC’s most significant projects and why? And how did the group arrive at decisions involving both form and content? I ask because of my own background with collectives consisting primarily of just artists, such as Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D) and REPOhistory where arriving at a state of agreement about almost anything was really challenging. I can only imagine how much more difficult working with both artists and union laborers must be. Can you elaborate a bit for us, Barrie?

BC: Here’s my list of Workers Art Coalition successes: 

Workers Pavilion II (2014) was successful because of the way it’s structured. The project allowed for a kind of prefigurative politics of working together without a foreman, and successful for its commemoration of the World Fair’s planned, but never executed, 1939 Temple of Labor at Flushing Meadow Park. WAC was able to enact the work seventy-five  years to the day on the same site. And finally, because our Workers’ Pavilion catalyzed our working together as collaborators, while still allowing for a degree of individual member’s autonomy. 

Culture Push/ Nurture Art exhibition (2017) was an installation of metal conduit, initially designed by WAC member Paul Vance, with a sound piece produced by artist Setare Arashloo derived from  a WAC Library of Congress interview lead by WAC artist Jaime Lopez, with additional contributions from Eliza Gagnon in the form of images from zines based on LOC (Library of Congress) interviews of working people.1 It was compelling both as a performance of the labor generated by multiple tradeswomen (Stella Fafalios, Afiya Jackson, and Shantar Gibson) who had not collaborated with us before on a build. It was also significant that Lopez evolved the design with them as they all worked. And the final product showcased the physical beauty of bent conduit and the electrician’s craft as it nicely platformed the LOC related imagery. The conduit served as a framing device and connected to functional seating. We all knew that it stood up as art as well as functioned in its social dimension. 

Climate/Labor Justice Floats and Banners (2014). There is nothing quite like the engagement of working very hard to produce the central visual work for a major labor march. For these projects, WAC members Lopez, Vance, and Bobby Andrew teamed up with other Local 28 sheet metal workers, as well as other electricians and carpenters, in order to create a protest artwork together platformed by the People’s Climate Art team. And a sign of the project’s impact came when books and newspapers used the work to illustrate their reporting.  Also, with such activity, there’s a sense of actually moving forward on climate justice that stems directly from collaborating. For example, the concept of “just transition” that I described earlier.

Muscle Memory (2019) consisted of another conduit sculpture for Socrates Park in Queens. It evolved out of Vance’s riffing on an earlier piece that WAC produced for ABC No Rio’s project space, but many hands worked in unison to shape both the design and its structural integrity. What made this project succeed from my perspective was its craft and visual sophistication, but also the positive attention we received from the Labor Press. And then, the electricians union IBEW Local 3 embraced it and moved it to their headquarters just three blocks from Queens College. And I remember well the rigging that was involved in moving the work across the city, because it formed a sublime performance in and of itself.

Regarding most of these projects, form and content decisions were often shaped by the opportunity we were being granted AND by the great teacher that the tradespeople know better than most, of the limits or resistance of materials themselves. There were and are certainly some power dynamics at play with myself in the role of grant writer, opportunity broker, facilitator, etc., and then reproductive laborer/communications housekeeper of the works. On the Workers Pavilions we agreed to use the grant money to pay those who were out of work and paid for food, and we continued to practice this wherever possible, so we had to be resourceful and make sacrifices. Projects like the Pavilions were great for creating a vehicle for many expressions and levels of capacity and commitment—and I’ve always hoped for future versions of that.

Overall we did make all the decisions together, and usually riffed on someone’s initial idea transforming it so authorship was shared, and even some of the dynamics of the reproductive work around the work shifted as we became better known. On a few occasions, we didn’t have consensus, and time was running out, so we defaulted to voting/compromise and sometimes there were lingering feelings about someone’s idea not going forward, but I think these were eventually superseded by the overall pride/traction for the next gig and sometimes individual art endeavors helped to blow off steam. It’s almost never going to be unmessy at points in any long term collaboration with a lot of moving parts and souls. I think that’s an unrealistic expectation. I’m surprised we’ve had as much harmony as we did given that construction workers are not shrinking violets! I’ve heard that on the jobsite folks might be swearing at each other earlier in the day  and splitting a sandwich a few hours later. That cheers me! I don’t remember the specifics of any of our disagreements but I do remember and appreciate the camaraderie of the Workers Art Coalition. We check up on each other, but since the pandemic, fewer opportunities have presented themselves, and a public art project at the Lewis Latimer Museum we were  working on for the Spring 2024 was recently canceled, so our last realized project was a several month long collaboration that culminated in Tik Toks and an exhibition with immigrant workers from the Workers Justice Project in summer of 2022 for ABC No Rio’s Summer School.

GS: What is it like teaching visual art at the Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies (HVASLS) at SUNY’s Empire State University, Barrie? https://www.sunyempire.edu/labor-studies-school/ Could you describe a bit about the center and tell us who your students are, as well as what assumptions they might come with regarding “art” ? And is there a set of “iconic” pieces that you show them to get them thinking about the link between labor and creative, plastic expressivity?

BC: A great deal of the teaching that goes on at the school is grounded in labor history as well as in a contemporary context, where students are asked to critically reflect on relations of power  and political economy that shape their -and other workers’- lives. Students then collectively examine and assess worker-centered strategies and policy, towards worker justice. The classes also engage aspects of a liberal arts degree-though always incorporating the working-class experience-to inspire students to think,write and express themselves critically. Our students are largely apprentices in the building trades unions (Local 3 electricians chiefly) but with our new Dean, Maria Figueroa, many more classes for worker centers like the Workers Justice Project are being offered in organizing and leadership work. It’s important to note that our Local 3 students are required by their union to get an Associates Degree in Labor Studies- and many of these students got into the trades in order to avoid college . Some of my students often come to the study of art thinking it has nothing to do with them. I get that (even relate to it) so I’ve broadened the parameters on what art can be in our class. I’ve relied a lot on Glenn Adamson’s craft writings to further situate the artisan, as well as to contend with the history of class, race, and gender inequities through a craft lens, but also to conjure the idea of connectivity to others that can come through working with materials.

I also find myself teaching less about iconic art works-and more about iconic historical moments.”

I also find myself teaching less about iconic art works-and more about iconic historical moments.  For example, along with a 19th century painting of workers by Courbet (The Stonebreakers, 1848), I’ll invoke the manifesto he worked on with artisans during the 1871 Paris Commune calling for an erasure of the hierarchy between artists and artisans and a decree for public beauty. The commune prioritized setting up schools for boys and girls that would include artisanal work (shoemaking, plumbing, crafts, building—essentially work made with the hands—but that served a useful function) and academic subjects to be taught to everyone. This goes along with the idea of Communal Luxury, a Commune generated concept that became so influential to William Morris. Then there are important past touchstones such as the street art of May 1968 in Paris, along with the iconic photos of students and workers protesting together. And of course these two events are linked. Allegedly, in May of 1968, all of the books about the 1871 Commune in Paris were sold out before the month was over! Using such examples, my classes study how even lost labor battles, such as the Paterson Silk Strike, or the early organizing of Pullman Porters, or various struggles for the 8-hour day, remain relevant and useful, not only in the public memory of the working classes, but also for imagining new struggles and  victories to come. And all the while, we remain focused on what art’s role in this narrative has been and what it might yet become.

GS: Do you find that the specific challenges you face teaching in this context, and with these students, also feeds into your own ideas and working methods regarding art making? 

Taking a page from Adamson’s scholarship in which he recognizes the working class as makers, and not just as heroic, or abstracted, or disparaged figures. This observation fires my imagination, and in turn that of my students. As Adamson puts it, “The cultural habit of marginalizing this kind of expertise has deep historical roots and has always been related to class condescension.” So the first challenge I encounter with my students is uncovering whatever creative, craft, and/or social justice investments are already present with them, or, perhaps emergent with them, and then get to work building off this existing foundation. Secondly, I encourage them to stake their claim to art. Therefore, yes, my work at the Labor school, along with my strategies to create space for my students within “art,” has infused even my own more solitary art-making. My interaction with students and union people, as well as the scholarship and the study required to do this kind of teaching well, all have an important  impact on my work. I definitely owe a lot to them as an educator and an artist. 

Barrie Cline (2021) Teatime (for a left labor populism?) Tabletop configured with ceramic grouted tile composed of indigo blue images both riffing on blue collar popular imagery/stereotypes and defying them. Ceramic teapot and mugs composed of images of workers carrying signage (such as the International Labor Organization’s basic founding precepts of workers rights (to collective bargaining, equal treatment, no forced labor,etc.,)

GS: Tell us about the work you submitted to LAR please, Barrie. It appears to have some interactive aspect to it as well? I see too that it continues your artistic interest in vases, vessels, and similar functional objects found in domestic, as opposed to, factory or office type settings. 

BC: Speaking of “owing” workers, I actually produced Teatime (for a Left labor populism?) right after making the IOU installation discussed above. And after years of harboring my own assumptions about all  “construction workers” -you know, all those stereotypical, “go to” images that make-up the tiled table of this piece– it has become far more complicated for me, especially after working with them for so many years. For example, consider a conversation that I had with Ashly DaCosta. She is a collaborator who is also a union member and a sheet metal journeywoman. We met at the 2018 International Woman’s Strike in Union Square, NYC. Ashly is a young woman of color, largely self-taught I believe, and also an original thinker who is extremely well-read as well as well-informed. When we first spoke, Ashly brought up Sylvia Federici’s Wages Against Housework in relation to WAC, which I had not thought of previously. And she had just completed a sound work of her own devising for the WAC installation IOU described earlier. For this,  Ashly, and her sister Michelle, recorded themselves discussing the fact that workers, including many construction workers that she has met on NYC jobsites – are largely, and regrettably, absent from the left’s mobilization about the climate crisis. She also brought up with me in conversation Thomas Frank’s 2020 book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, in which he presents a very different and encouraging historical picture of populism on the Left and its relationship to the working class. These stimulating conversations with Ashly largely inspired my project Teatime (for a left labor populism?).

GS: Exciting. And tell us more about the actual physical work that resulted from this encounter.

“[With Workers Art Coalition, WAC] we established a group identity that referenced the past, but which put Workers, rather than Artists, in its front line.”

BC: Obviously, I’m poking fun here at the unfortunate Tea Party moment of a few years ago, but mostly I’m conjuring up an intimate moment for meeting around left labor solidarities.Teatime (for a left labor populism?) offers a space to converge, despite so many differences, particularly when union organizing takes place in the artistic industries is on the rise, for example with the museum staff unionization movement. And someone like Chris Smalls (the charismatic spokesperson for the Amazon Labor Union) has even made it cool. Anyway, in Teatime (for a left labor populism?), there is a domesticity, intimacy, and care implied that harkens back to the utility and humility of craft and ceramics. It also involves  a sense of the everyday and the everyman and woman, and how sharing a tea break with someone you may not see eye to eye with on everything creates a space of connection. Even as you set down your mug on the table with its images of the 1970 NYC hardhat riot, well, this teatime might just offer one way to begin bridging differences. And I’m not even explicitly referring here to tea ceremonies or how tea functions in the UK, for example, but I do wonder whether such rituals activate a kind of social glue that we could use more of today. I pose this here as a question, and not as a fact. Also, with all of the messaging on commemorative plates and pottery one finds in popular culture, I’ve yet to see labor history, or principles of labor rights, or everyday workers for that matter, ever memorialized in these objects. Perhaps ironically, however, it has been such ceramics that the working class was able to afford and to collect. So, I’m riffing on that a bit here, as well as with my IOU project. And, on another level, I also just like the idea that a teacup could be something that we literally hold—hold in common and with care. 

GS: I hope I can ask a somewhat more “selfish” final question, by seeking out your reflections on having been one of the first four artists who Maureen Connor and I accepted into the Social Practice Queens (SPQ) MFA, back in 2013. You will recall that at the time, SPQ was merely a non-funded graduate concentration within the Queens College Art Department’s Studio Art Program. However, SPQ did indeed benefit from substantial links with the Queens Museum, including from Prerana Reddy who was then working as their community outreach person and of course from Tom Finkelpearl who was the Museum’s Director. What I am curious about, is how that experience has, or perhaps has not, gone on to inform your varied activities as an artist, co-founder and collaborator with WAC, but also as teaching faculty in art at HVASLS? 

BC: It’s funny that you ask, because my first semester in the program, with all of its incredible resources and space, provided me with a big step forward in my ceramic skills and also financially. There was a convergence of important influence at this moment, including the social practice art education that I received with you and Maureen Connor through Social Practice Queens (SPQ at Queens College), together with the Queens Museum’s strong community commitment under Tom Finkelpearl and Prerana Reddy’s direction. And all of this valorized the collaborations that I’ve spoken of, but also critically questioned these practices as well. 

“Overall we did make all the decisions together, and usually riffed on someone’s initial idea transforming it so authorship was shared, and even some of the dynamics of the reproductive work around the work shifted as we became better known.”

And I still think about that decision I made not to become “the Director” of a WAC factory or “Santa’s workshop” as Maureen joked with me one day. I believe focusing on creating equitable conditions of artistic production, however flawed, and however challenging, was the way to go. I wanted to work directly with the rank and file union people and only then produce something that their unions would have to, or would want to, acknowledge and even request a collaboration—which happened at the DC climate march in 2017. I didn’t want to give my union collaborators “an assignment.” I was after real collaboration from start to finish. Unions ask members to go knocking on doors or volunteering for various types of community service. The pull for WAC was the chance to work on art projects together, which judging by how little leisure time most of the folks  truly have, also had its own traction. So no assignments. Even when a Chelsea gallery approached me about exhibiting a series of lamps and utilitarian objects, we rejected the idea.  When I brought the idea to WAC, the crew were not in favor of it, and it wasn’t my place to push that agenda. My SPQ training had made me aware of the power relations I was enacting, including the hierarchies that are generated within artistic practices. 

As I’ve said, I had much to offer the workers who formed WAC because of SPQ and I had support for prioritizing the process of artistic collaboration with them, as well as to think deeply about using art as an organizing tool. There was also a “permission” I felt from the program to just go ahead and be dark matter! In other words, we still see you and value you, even if you are trying to work with dusty old unions! Also, many of the artists I and the other students discovered through our studies with SPQ, and via the Queens Museum, created real-world impacts, including shaping policy and innovating change within institutions, and that was, and remains, inspiring for my artistic work.

All photos were taken by Barrie Cline

  1. WAC applied to the Library of Congress and was granted an Archie Green Fellowship to explore the idea that workers themselves (from IBEW Local 3) could become the ethnographers, or part of the team of ethnographers, who were making these interviews. See: LOC: Illuminating History: Union Electricians in New York City. ↩︎