Labour Arts

Art can transform workers and help them overcome the barriers they face in trying to make sense of the ‘daily grind’. On a broader level, what lies at the heart of what many of us try to do is the development of passion and the belief—might we even say faith?—in solidarity and social justice.

-Labour Education and Labour Art: the Hidden Potential of Knowing For the Left Hand by Peter H. Sawchuk

Labour Arts

Image by Condé / Beveridge created for The River

The traditional alliance of union members and artists goes back hundreds of years. The medieval craft guilds staged elaborate pageants in their towns. In nineteenth century England, William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement inspired everything from literature to wallpaper. At the turn of the twentieth century, Edmonton trades organizations sponsored elaborate parade floats. It was common for people at union meetings to get up and recite poetry or sing songs.

During the middle years of the last century, much of this cultural activity died out around the world as The Arts became increasing ‘professionalized’ and installed in dedicated buildings. In the last 25 years, however, there has been a conscious attempt to revive the tradition of Labour Arts. Starting with cultural workers such as Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge in Toronto a new tradition is evolving. Ground Zero is actively involved in this initiative.

Don Bouzek chairs the Arts and Heritage Sub-committee of The Canadian Labour Congress. In Hamilton, the Workers’ Heritage Centre ia committed to bring together Labour history and its artistic representation. It has created a website for Labour Arts.

Topics in Focus

  1. Canadian Labour Congress Arts & Heritage Sub- Committee
  2. Mayworks / May Week
  3. Carole Condé / Karl Beveridge

Dialogue Page

GZP wants to encourage groups working in Labour Arts to network with each other. We hope this dialogue page will provide a bit of digital space for communication. Use the email below to send us your thoughts and we’ll post them.