“Working in America”
As election season heats up, a multimedia exhibit focused on issues of work in America will open September 14 at the Harold Washington Library Center. Inspired by the anniversary of Studs Terkel’s 1974 book “Working” and created by Project&, the exhibit features photographs by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and Project& Fellow Lynsey Addario. “Working in America” takes an intimate look at how we feel about what most of us do, or wish we did, all day long.
With powerful photographs and raw, honest stories, “Working in America” captures the experiences of a veteran-turned-urban-farmer, a retired oil field worker, a high school principal, a Lyft driver, a professional escort and others. “In the tradition of Terkel himself, the exhibit amplifies essential voices, both individually and together. There are no average human beings and everyone is the authentic expert of their own life,” said Jane M. Saks, the creator of the initiative and artistic director of Project&, a group that creates art with social impact and other cutting-edge models of cultural participation. “The exhibit aims to reveal the centrality of work in all our lives and the role of work in how we see ourselves, others and our communities. It shows our similarities and differences, enhances public knowledge and reminds us all of our human interconnectedness.”
Issues of economic equity anchor the major conflicts of our times: the widening wealth gap, access to quality education, and the impact of globalization on the ability of everyday people to make a decent living. Against that backdrop, “Working in America” profiles 24 people from across the country whose stories illuminate the challenges and triumphs of working today.
The exhibit, which was designed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects, is part of a larger initiative that connects three multi-platform components. A radio series, co-produced by Saks and Radio Diaries Executive Producer Joe Richman, will profile people originally featured in Terkel’s book “Working” and is scheduled to begin airing in September on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
On Sept. 14, the opening day of the “Working in America” exhibit, author and journalist Alex Kotlowitz will moderate a panel at the Harold Washington Library that will include, among others, Addario, Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Lucia McBath, mother of slain youth Jordan Davis and cofounder of Mothers of the Movement, and Roque Sanchez, a Chicago custodian and part-time college student who is featured in the exhibit. October will bring a series of “Working Lunches” every Thursday to the library where speakers will discuss their working lives.
All the while, members of the public will be able to upload their own stories and photographs to an online archive called “Your Working Story.” “The narratives of this exhibit allow us to explore the trials and tribulations we face in our work,” said Saks. “It also shows what is universal about work and illustrates how labor, in many ways, gives us a sense of purpose, a means to participate in society and becomes the tie that binds us all together.”
Project& collaborates with artists to create new models of cultural participation and experiences with social impact. We amplify artistic voices that risk, engage, investigate and inspire, highlighting issues at the forefront of our time including: race, gender, human rights and economic inequality. We create models and new work that cross platforms and focus on human experiences putting new narratives, agency, and equitable participation at the center. We hold multiple creative roles that are shaped by the context and vision of the work, and vary from project to project. They include creator, initiator, partner, producer, distributor and convener.
About Lynsey Addario
Lynsey Addario is an American photojournalist who regularly works for The New York Times, National Geographic, and Time Magazine. Lynsey’s recent work includes reportage on Syrian refugees, the ISIS push into Iraq, the civil war in South Sudan, and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. In 2015, American Photo Magazine named Lynsey one of the five most influential photographers of the past 25 years. She has received the MacArthur Fellowship and the Overseas Press Club’s Olivier Rebbot Award. She is also the author of the 2015 New York Times best-selling memoir “It’s What I Do,” which chronicled her life as a photojournalist coming of age in the post-9/11 world.