Like a skeptical math teacher, Constance Ruppender wants you to show your work. More specifically, Ruppender will be accepting photos of people working in Wilton Manors as part of “The Way We Worked,” a traveling Smithsonian photo exhibit. The exhibit will be hosted by Art Gallery 21 in Wilton Manors March 18 to April 29.
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Ruppender, founder of Art Gallery 21, said she hopes the exhibit will push Art Gallery 21 into “another league” and noticed by artists, patrons and possible volunteers who might not normally come visit. “I’m really excited about it. It’s opening some doors for us at the art gallery. Just when you say the words ‘Smithsonian’ people look at you differently. There are endless possibilities. It is a way to build capacity and hopefully turn the corner and no longer be a start up.”
“The Way We Worked” uses “historical photographs, archival accounts and interactive components” to illustrate the history of the American workforce over the past 150 years.
As part of the exhibit, Ruppender is organizing two events – a photo contest, “Wilton Manors Works” and “The LGBT Work Experience” story slam hosted by South Florida playwright Michael McKeever. Photos of individuals at work in the city can be entered into the photo contest.
The story slam and the results of the photo contest will be unveiled on March 10 at Art Gallery 21. “It’s an interactive event to increase awareness of the LGBT work experience,” said Ruppender.
The Smithsonian exhibit was developed from original exhibition by the National Archives.
Farmers, coal miners, construction workers, welders, scientists, fishermen, cab drivers, dock workers and many more professions are featured as part of the exhibit.
“One of the reasons we did this exhibit was to honor the men and women workers who have really created the country that we have today. In many ways, we do see the worker as being an American hero,” said Bruce Bustard, Curator of the National Archives, in a video on the Smithsonian’s website.
According to the Smithsonian, the exhibit is divided into five sections and examines where people worked, how automation and technology impacted work, uniforms and what people wore to work, segregation, child labor, wages and the working conditions and conflicts at work between workers and owners, and the dangerous and unhealthy conditions many workers had to deal with and fight to improve.
Ruppender got the city on the list of approved stops with the help of Todd DeJesus, the city’s special projects and grants manager.
Ruppender applied for Art Gallery 21 to be a host through a grant with the Florida Humanities Council. Along with the city, the exhibit and the events are a collaboration between Art Gallery 21, The Pride Center, Stonewall Museum & Archives and the Community Affairs Advisory Board.
Visit artgallery21.org or call 954-661-4740 to enter.