projectcollaboratorswhere to seeresoureslinksfunderspresscontacttell your story!

The Artists
We are a pair of collaborating artists whose roots go back two and three decades to community arts organizations in the Mission District of San Francisco. As a bus driver and librarian, we see our artwork as a kind of public service with the same goal as our day jobs—to work for our community. We collaborate on narrative visual art projects that engage community members as storytellers. Annually we produce The Nacimiento Project, a room-sized diorama, musical performance and festival to celebrate community ties. For the Nacimiento, we work with family and friends to jointly create a tiny idealized world. The project strengthens our resolve to work during the year to make those ideals reality. In keeping with our previous projects, Our Work Life makes visible the contributions of those who often go unrecognized.

Oscar Melara, artist and SamTrans bus driver, is a founding member of La Raza Silkscreen Center. The Center was founded in 1969 to design and print silkscreen posters on national and international political issues, and on local community concerns and events—serving the predominantly Latino Mission District of San Francisco. From 1969 to 1982 Melara held the position of co-director, designing and printing posters, and training community members in the process of silkscreen printing. Melara’s work has been featured in international traveling exhibitions with sites including the Smithsonian Institution; Self-Help Graphics (Los Angeles); galleries in Havana, Mexico City, Paris, and Rome; and local museums and galleries. His work is in the collection of the UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library and the CEMA Archive at UC Santa Barbara. In 1994, Melara began the cartoon series “Side Swipes” which describes the ups and downs of his and fellow SamTrans bus operators’ work lives. He creates illustrations for unions and non-profit organizations and is a member of ATU 1574.

Kate Connell, installation artist and librarian, creates collaborative multimedia installations. Connell produces mechanized sculpture carved from balsa, redwood and pine and draws in multiple media. She has collaborated on installations with musicians John Santos of the Machete Ensemble and Bruce Ackley of the ROVA Saxophone Quartet. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Intersection for the Arts, the Alternative Museum (NY), and LACE (LA) among others. She has received grants from the California Arts Council, the Creative Work Fund and the NEA/Rockefeller Foundation awarded by New Langton Arts. As artist-in-residence at the Galería de la Raza, she conducted the arts education program from 1989 to 1992. She has curated community art exhibitions and exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library and San Francisco Public Library. Connell is a reference librarian and Library Exhibition Curator at City College of San Francisco and member of AFT 2121.

Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State University
Trade union leaders, historians, labor activists, and university administrators established the Labor Archives (LARC) in 1985. Few regions can rival the rich, lively labor history of the San Francisco Bay Area, a history which LARC, a special collection unit of the San Francisco State Library, preserves and makes accessible. Many unions have named LARC as the official repository for their historical records—minutes, office correspondence, membership and dues records, publications, and negotiation and contractual materials. Labor leaders, attorneys, arbitrators, and rank-and-file workers have donated their personal papers, books, diaries, scrapbooks and oral histories. LARC has a large collection of provocative graphic materials which includes: photographs, cartoons, buttons, record albums and picket signs. Special materials include the records of the Bookbinders and Bindery Women’s Union (1902-1970), the minutes of the Building Trades Council (1911-1914), the Shipwrights’ Local #1149 and the oldest existing Wobbly Charter (1907).

LARC Staff
Catherine Powell, Outreach Archivist at LARC served as Chief Researcher on Our Work Life.

Susan Sherwood, Acting Director of LARC, conducted research for the project and is coordinating activities related to Our Work Life. LARC’s collection is open to the public by appointment. Contact: Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University, 480 Winston Drive, San Francisco, CA 94132, (415) 564-4010.

David Bacon, labor reporter for KPFA and Pacifica News Service and author of The Children of NAFTA Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California Press, 2004), is a consultant and writer on this project. Bacon’s photographs of a hotel worker’s hands (Hotel and Restaurant) and a college instructor (Underemployed and Unemployed) appear in the mural. Photographs by Bacon also provided visual information for drawings in the Agriculture and Building Trades panels.

Lisa Velarde, researcher and primary interviewer, has been a docent and researcher on the Diego Rivera Project at City College of San Francisco. She co-curated the exhibition “A Lifetime of Work: The Prints and Murals of Emmy Lou Packard” at City College in 2003. She is studying to be a librarian.

Joseph A. Blum, Labor Photographer and former union steamfitter, contributed two photographs to this project, both in the Building Trades panels: the image of the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge worker and the image of the carpenters working on the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers.

Huang Shao Wu learned traditional calligraphy in his native china by practicing with a stick in sand because paper was too expensive. He painted the calligraphy in the Garment Work panel. Albert Lee translated the picket sign text in that panel.

Giacomo Patri (1898-1978) was a prolific labor artist, art instructor and San Francisco Chronicle illustrator. We pay homage to his work of the 1930s and 1940s by including two of his illustrations in this project. In the Maritime section his image of sailors in their bunks appears and his image of a clerk under the watchful eye of her manager is included in the Retail panel.
Gino Squadrito, of LC Graphics did graphic production for the mural panels and designed the “transfer”/handout and the invitation for the unveiling of Our Work Life.

Jaimie Lock designed this website. As a freelance multimedia designer, she has created a wide variety of websites and print graphics for businesses and the performing arts community. She can be contacted at

Sibila Savage, photographer, documented the project and photographed the participants and collaborators.

Student Interviewers
Tara Carney and Ivy McClelland, City College of San Francisco, and Nhien Truong, San Francisco State University, and Amanda Padilla, San Diego State University.

Graphic Artists
Under the instruction of Regina Rowland and Amy Conger, Graphic Communications Department, City College of San Francisco, Antonio Rusevski and Mark Clarin researched and selected type from four different eras for the quotes in the mural panels.

  back to top home