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“It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”



Working in America

Working in America explores authentic, raw, and honest stories focused on the daily desire to survive, thrive, participate and contribute—stories of how we locate ourselves in society, how we are seen or made invisible, and how we find meaning. Through these narratives of others as well as our own stories, we learn that work is the thread that runs through us all, universal, yet particular and deeply personal.

We live in a time of great innovation as well as deep dissatisfaction, endless possibilities and creativity, diminishing resources and new fantastic discoveries. This is a moment of greater diversity in public life and discourse—the most we have ever experienced, perhaps. And a heightened awareness of systemic racism and violence by the general public and greater visibility of gender issues. There is unprecedented inequality, struggling post-industrial cities, under employment, unemployment and weak public systems. At the core of these tensions is work, labor, and the American worker and workforce.

The centerpiece of the Working in America initiative is a nationally traveling photography exhibition focused on the stories of veterans, a tech worker, farmer, entrepreneur, domestic worker, athlete, artist, educator, police officer and more. The images were taken by Project& Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Lynsey Addario. The exhibit, designed in collaboration with award-winning architect Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang, profiles 24 people from 17 states ranging in ages from 21 to 87. The Working in America initiative, created and conceived by Jane M. Saks and Project&, includes the online living community, Your Working Story, where anyone at the exhibit or across the country can contribute their own stories, chronicling what work and working means to them.

Working in America is inspired by, celebrates, and brings forward the tradition and humanity of Studs Terkel from his influential book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974). To further engage Studs’ living legacy as part of the initiative, Project& and Radio Diaries have co-produced a series, “Working Then and Now,” including never before heard field recordings Terkel conducted for the book as well as new interviews, airing on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

The Working in America initiative is dedicated in honor of Studs Terkel (1912–2008) and Alan Saks (1927–2005): two fierce humanists who believed there were no average people.

Jane M. Saks
Conceived & Curated, Working in America

Art can imagine a democracy built on the promise of equitable participation—working to deliver on that promise, through risk, human experience, creative experimentation, expression and engagement. This promise of democracy is central to Studs Terkel’s brilliance and his humanity in his life’s work and his extraordinary book, “Working,” as well as being central to the inspiration for Working in America. By focusing on stories that include the breadth of our society, we add oxygen and audiences to voices often left out and less visible. Their expression creates a more textured truth, a more challenging truth, a more satisfying and evolving and beautifully fearless truth.

In this initiative, the landscape of work in America includes great innovation and passion, successful and inspired workers, and over employment and under payment, under employment and no work at all. The relationship to work is personal, public, and porous. It changes throughout life and generations and yet, remains present and constant. Sometimes our work helps us learn our authentic worth in profound ways and sometimes it undervalues us so much that we lose the possibility of full membership in society. Sometimes we are paid for what we consider our work and sometimes not. Sometimes our work can be elusive, and fail us, and sometimes it is the pull toward aspirations, dreams, and the previously unimagined possibilities of our lives and futures.

Working in America is a multi-platform model and creative tool that hopes to support a more nuanced participatory national conversation about work. We are grateful to the people profiled in the initiative and thank them for allowing us to accompany them as they navigated the beauty and challenges of their work and lives. We hope Working in America will be part of supporting a society with ever increasing equitable participation at its core—a society where everyone can make a life and a living with human dignity.

Work in Context

Work today looks very different than it did in the wake of the 2008 Recession and even more so than it did in 1974, when Studs Terkel interviewed a diverse range of individuals—from the farmers to newspaper boys, limo drivers, factory workers, phone operators, police officers, doctors, press agents and athletes for his influential book, Working.

The following collection of essays reflect upon everyday challenges workers face in the United States, and visions of a future defined by a healthy, sustainable workforce—one with access to steady full-time work and a living wage. A future where the labor of women, immigrants, young people, union members, the working poor, and the disabled are essential and visible; a future where all of us are able to earn a wage with dignity, humanity, fulfillment and happiness.

Click on an individual's photo below to read their essay,
or click here to view all Work in Context essays.

The Exhibit

What does a retired oil field worker in North Dakota have in common with a professional escort in Florida or a tough as nails Olympic boxer in Flint, Michigan? What connects a gun violence activist and mother in Atlanta, to a gig economy worker and musician in the Bay Area, to an artist living with disabilities in Chicago, or connects a former drug dealer and current facilities director in New York, and a domestic worker in California, and a young policewoman in Camden, New Jersey and an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley? What might a custodian and student who entered the U.S. illegally as a child say to Albuquerque’s Republican mayor? All told, their raw and authentic stories paint a profoundly rich portrait of what work looks, means, and feels like in the U.S. We followed these 24 individuals who, with generosity, authenticity and honesty, shared their working stories.

Lead Creative Team

The lead creative team includes, photographs taken by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Lynsey Addario, exhibit design by MacArthur Fellow and architect, Jeanne Gang + Studio Gang, and conceived and curated by President and Artistic Director, Project& Jane M. Saks.

Click on an individual's photo to read their bio, or click here to view all Lead Creative Team bios.

Your Working Story

Submit your story and become part of the Working in America living archive and this essential national conversation.

The Radio Series

Co-production of Jane M Saks/Project& and Joe Richman/Radio Diaries Broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition—airing the week of 26th September.

As a central part of the initiative, Project& and Radio Diaries will co-produce a compelling audio series related to Working in America for National Public Radio. Granted exclusive and unprecedented access to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel’s 1974 interviews, Project& and Radio Diaries has profiled people originally featured in Terkel’s book who are still living. The series revisits these individuals and joins them as they hear their interview and reflect upon the previous four decades living and working. The series will also include contemporary interviews with individuals across the country and other original stories from the book field recordings. This radio series began with the pilot “Working: Then and Now,” which aired Labor Day 2014 to tremendous response.


In collaboration with artists, Project& creates new models of cultural participation with social impact. We amplify artistic voices that risk, engage, investigate and inspire. Project& believes art changes the world. We believe the core of the artistic practice is courage; when unleashed, it creates conditions for collective action that are inspired, resonant, and contagious. Forging expansive connections and engendering trust are fundamental to unleashing the artistic spirit in the work of Project&. As we seed change through artistic collaboration, we spark chain reactions, setting cultural participation in motion in ways we cannot anticipate or predict. The impact of the Project& practice, and of our artists and collaborators, comes into ever-sharpening focus over the arc of time. Our extraordinary collaborations with emergent as well as award-winning artists—such as MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario, MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, MacArthur Fellow and revolutionary flutist Claire Chase, acclaimed visual artist Hank Willis Thomas, accomplished scholar and artist E. Patrick Johnson, award-winning filmmaker Yance Ford, Hon. Albie Sachs, former South Africa Constitutional Court Judge, anti-apartheid leader and legal and social scholar, and the innovative visual artist Cheryl Pope—examine and influence critical policy, social and community discussions.

Sonny Garg Board Chair
Gigi Pritzker Pucker Vice Chair
D’Rita Robinson Vice Chair
Dana Arnett Secretary
Sunny Fischer
Priscilla Kersten
Barbara Goodman Manilow
Carmelita Tiu
Caren Yanis
Jane M. Saks Founding President and Artistic Director

Dawoud Bey
Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow
Michelle T. Boone
Chief Program and Civic Engagement, Officer of Navy Pier, Inc.
Cheryl Lynn Bruce
Award-winning film and theater actor
Jim Hodges
Internationally renowned artist
Hon. Stephen Lewis
Co-founder, AIDS Free World, Canada
Kerry James Marshall
MacArthur Fellow and award-winning artist
Frank Mugisha
Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Uganda
Lynn Nottage
MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright
Justice Albie Sachs
Constitutional Court, South Africa

Jane M. Saks President & Artistic Director, Project&
Phil Henke Assistant to the President
Meredith Mosbacher Pruyn Production Manager
Luke Galambos Galambos + Associates, Lead Branding & Design
Kiersten Regelin Corporate Relations
Selena Cotte Project& Arts, Social Change and Engagement Intern
Sarah Saks-Fithian Project& Arts, Social Change and Engagement Intern

Dana and Stephanie Arnett
Meredith Bluhm-Wolf & Bill Wolf
Abigail E. Disney & Pierre N. Hauser
Frances and Elliot Lehman
Sunny and Paul Fischer
Sonny and Julia Garg
Jim Hodges
Deone Jackman
Priscilla and Steve Kersten
Barbara Goodman Manilow
Martha & Richard Melman
Sylvia Neil
Gigi Pritzker Pucker and Michael Pucker
Margot & Thomas Pritzker, Pritzker Family Foundation
Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation
The Reva and David Logan Foundation
Laura M. Ricketts and Brooke Skinner Ricketts
Esther S. Saks
Caren Yanis

220 North Green Street Chicago, IL 60607
info@projectand.org / projectand.org
p 872.806.1435

Thank You

Thank you to all the individuals who participated generously in giving their time, ideas and talents.

Ryan Abbe - Stacey Abrams - Camille Addario - Lauren Addario - Kemi Adeyemi - Jean Albright - Elizabeth Alexander - J. Bob Alotta - Sharon Alpert - Jessica Andersen - Francisco Aragon - Tracy Baim - Jordan Baines - Brooks Bankord - Brian Bannon - Lois Baum - Abaki Beck - Sally Beck - Marjorie and Charles Benton - Elizabeth Mendez Berry - Marcus Berry - Karen Bess - John Bouman - Maggie Bowman - Margaret Brennan - Jennie Brier - Marca Bristo - Jonny Bronstein - Cheryl Lynn Bruce - Tania Bruguera - Roland Bullock - Claire Cahan - Ben Calhoun - Robert Cano - Marlies Carruth - Claire Chase - Rohit Chopra - Michelle Coffey - Nancy Custer - Flinn Dallis - Kimberly Daul - Jay Davies - Craig Davis - Monica Davis - Jon Day - Jeremy Dunn - Barbara Dyer - Shawn Escoffery - Kendall Farley - Candace Feit - Harvey Fields - Paul Fischer - Lisa Fitzpatrick - Michelle Frisque - Luke Galambos - Tony Gerber - Deborah George - Nellie Gilles - Alexis Goldstein - Julie Goldsticker - Reid Gomez - Tyler Greene Jeff Grzywa - Mark Guarino - Peter Handler - James Haney, Jr. - Julia Harris - Tom Harris - Jim Hodges - Elizabeth M. Holland - Ed Hopkins - Sara Horowitz - Dave Horwich - Andy Horwitz - Ben Horwitz - Randy Horwitz - Nate Hurst - Kathy Im - Deone Jackman - Julie Jernberg - Gary T. Johnson Sue Jaye Johnson - Candice Jones - Bob Kafka - Marilyn Katz - Kirsten Kelly - Kareem Khubchandani - Bakari Kitwana - Alex Kotlowitz - Mary Beth Kraft - Sarah Kramer - Elizabeth Krasner - Rosalyn LaPier - Zofia Latka - Margaret Lebron - Amy Lehman - Francis and Elliot Lehman Nancy Lerner - Sydney Lewis - Jennifer Lizak - Lola Loaning - Elana Lopez - Deputy Secretary Chris Lu - Rene Luna - Keisha McClellan - Lesley McNorton - Tony Macaluso - Anne de Mare - Kerry James Marshall - Linsey Martin - Darcy McKinnon - Tracie McMillan - Lydia Meyer - Cindy Moelis - Patrick Molloy - Aisha Moodie-Mills - Margaret Morton - Colleen Mastony - Justine Nagan - Lynn Nottage - Alison Omens - Michael Orlove - Elizabeth Osterberg - Lauren Pabst - Jane Palmer - Hilary Pennington - Carlos Perez de Aleja - Secretary Thomas Perez - Michael Peters - Jolene Pinder - Lydia Polgreen - Ai-jen Poo - Jessy Pucker - Ahmer Qadeer - Gordon Quinn - Grace Radkins - Kavita Ramdas - Sammy Rangel - Kiersten Regelin - Joe Richman - Renault Robinson - Steve Robinson - Armando Robles - Angelica Ross - Clayton Ruby - Emma Ruby-Sachs - Harriet Sachs - Kate Ruby-Sachs - Andrea Sáenz - Beth Saks and Scott Fithian - Naomi Saks and John Parker - Ruth Saks - Sam Saks-Fithian - Sarah Saks-Fithian - Shelby Saville - Allison Schein - Tracy Schmidt - Brian Scott - Ben Shapiro - Susan Sher - Liz Skilbeck - Schuyler Smith - Socially Authentic - Elizabeth Stanton - Lauren Steel - Caesar Stovall - Tim Struby - Neera Tanden - Tina Tchen - Jessica Thunberg - Ryan Tinsley - Angela Tucker - Roberta Uno - Sudhir Venkatesh - Penny Vicini - Patricia Walker - Laura H. Washington - Bernice Weissbourd - Mason Wilkes - Angelique Williams Powers - William Yellow Robe - Allison Zellman


We thank our many sponsoring, collaborating and individual partners. They have committed resources, talents, skills, knowledge and passion to our work together and a belief in the Project& vision of collaborations with artists to create new models of cultural participation. Thank you.

Supporting Partners

Special thanks to our technology and print partner, HP Inc., and our joint print partners, GSB Digital, for exhibition photos, and Blooming Color for programs and posters.

  • Access Living
  • Center for American Progress
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Chicago Public Library
  • Galambos + Associates
  • GSB Digital
  • HP Inc.
  • Intersector Solutions
  • Jasculca Terman
  • Jobcase
  • Library of Congress
  • National Domestic Worker’s Alliance
  • National Public Radio
  • Pride Action Tank
  • Radio Diaries
  • Rap Sessions
  • Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
  • Spark Media
  • Jeanne Gang + Studio Gang Architects
  • Studs Terkel Radio Archive
  • WBEZ
  • Windy City Times
  • WFMT
  • Women Employed
  • YouMedia