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.
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
Catherine Powell, Outreach Archivist at LARC served as
Chief Researcher on Our Work Life.
Sherwood, Acting Director of LARC, conducted research for the
project and is coordinating activities related to Our Work Life.
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.
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.
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.
Shao Wu learned traditional calligraphy in his native china
by practicing with a stick in sand because paper was too expensive. He
the calligraphy in the Garment Work panel. Albert Lee translated the picket sign text in that panel.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savage, photographer, documented the project and photographed
the participants and collaborators.
Tara Carney and Ivy McClelland, City
College of San Francisco, and Nhien Truong, San Francisco
State University, and Amanda Padilla, San Diego State University.
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.