(Un)Seen Work: Traditions and Transitions from Culturing Community: Projects About Place

curated by Lesley Wright, Director, Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College, Fall 2010

Jane Gilmor
In collaboration with the citizens of Grinnell, Iowa (as listed below)

Matthew Butler, original video and audio works;
David Van Allen, photography;
Barry Sigel, Christina Husmann, Maria Terzopoulou, Cory Taylor, Nicole Bake, Thomas Bateman, Robin Young, Michael McHugh. Funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (logo)

Culturing Community: Projects About Place curated by Faulconer Gallery Director Lesley Wright asked four artists to create four projects using art to get at a more complex sense of a small Iowa town and it’s people. The exhibition is an experiment in uniting a community and a Museum in unexpected ways. Culturing Community creates a bumpy unresolved picture of Grinnell. As a lively town it is a work in progress. Gerard Delanty in his book Community notes, We often find our sense of community in those “in-between” spaces that we pass through on our way to somewhere else: the coffee shop, the waiting room, the library.

(Un)Seen Work: Traditions and Transitions, draws on Grinnell histories and experiences of work, particularly the unseen work done in unsung jobs that keep a community going. Through a series of video interviews begun in February 2010, fifty people contributed their work histories to the project. Gilmor also held workshops to help participants create metal foil books with text and images expressing their experiences of work.

Participants were asked to address these and other questions:
What is your personal work history?
What work would you like to be doing?
What kinds of work do other members of your family do?
What kinds of work were you raised to do?

Using the videos, transcripts, archival materials, objects brought by Grinnell participants, and other Grinnell/work related materials, Gilmor fashioned a giant walk-in book about work in a small Iowa community. The piece incorporated the words and images of the “unseen” workers, video, and hands-on activities.

Copies of interview videos and transcripts completed as part of this project will be donated to the Iowa Labor Archives of The State Historical Society in Des Moines as well as the Drake Community Library in Grinnell.
Thank you to all the (Un)seen Work participants, including those who chose to remain anonymous but are not forgotten. A complete listing of participants can be downloaded in the form of the “thank you” poster for Culturing Community.