Text By Adel Manoukian • Photos by Jonathan Springer
Members of 32BJ SEIU, the largest national union for property workers, and their families had the opportunity to showcase their artistic talents this past Friday evening at the sixth annual 32BJ Free Art Show in the union’s building on 18th Street.
These artists, with full-time jobs as doormen, janitors and building service workers, hail from faraway places like South America and Europe but live and work in New York City and Northern New Jersey.
“We wanted to find out what motivates them,” said Lenore Friedlaender, who founded the art committee that organized the event and chose the showcase’s theme of “Interpretation Through Our Eyes.”
“Our workers should be able to express themselves how they see fit, whether politically or emotionally, through this medium. This show celebrates their talent,” she said.
“The show also brings the community closer, as this year’s entries have been the greatest to date—about 76 workers submitted photography, ceramics, oil paintings and pencil drawings. It is also expanding, the artists have presented their work at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and the Labor Museum in New Jersey this year already,” Friedlaender continued.
“I graduated from the School of Visual Arts hoping for a career in the arts,” said Julius Gaston Sr., a full-time porter for three buildings in Queens who made opening remarks at the ceremony. “But I have to provide for my family. As much as I love art, I don’t want to be a starving artist. Many here feel the same, so this is why this show is so important. We just love art.”
All the art, including Gaston’s two oil paintings and a pencil drawing, will be on display through the summer.
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