History of Art and Architecture

Work Forces

Call for applications

Work Forces: Mobilizing the Visual and Material Cultures of Labor

May 6 – May 10, 2019

A collection-based workshop for Pitt faculty and graduate students
Presented as part of Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh
Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Co-leaders: Alex Taylor and Barbara McCloskey

Application deadline: February 25, 2019
12 participants will receive $2000 to participate in the week-long workshop and carry their work forward.

The forces of labor have long shaped the collections of Pittsburgh. Many of the city’s museums and archives manifest the vast wealth generated through the efforts of its workers, and sometimes were formed with their improvement in mind. In other instances, collections testify to Pittsburgh’s long and preeminent role in the history of organized labor and worker’s struggle, and the environmental and social impacts of industrialization, deindustrialization, and the city’s move toward a tech economy. Local museums and archives also contain traces of the material knowledge and techniques of skilled makers, and record forms of artistic collectivity borrowed from diverse spheres of productive endeavor.

This week-long, collection-based workshop seeks to imagine new ways to engage with Pittsburgh’s artistic and archival manifestations of labor. Some of the themes to be explored include:

  • how museum and library holdings can help trace the changing nature of labor in Pittsburgh, artistic or otherwise;
  • how these collections might connect local labor histories to the transformative forces of globalization; and
  • how these historic materials connect to urgent contemporary questions of social and economic inequality.

Workshop participants will have the opportunity to contribute to the early intellectual development of Working Thought, a major exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2020. Curated by Eric Crosby, Richard Armstrong Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Working Thought will present the work of some 25 contemporary artists who engage critically with issues of labor and economic inequality in our nation, past and present. Crosby and his colleagues will participate in several workshop sessions, and participants in the workshop are encouraged to attend an afternoon symposium related to the exhibition on May 4, 2019.

Participants are expected to then carry their work forward as a research or teaching initiative of some kind. Projects might take many forms but we are particularly interested in:

  • Research that makes use of objects in local collections and that could be developed into articles, digital projects and/or blog posts;
  • Projects that draw on local collections to engage communities in issues of labor and labor justice;
  • New or revised course materials that integrate objects from local collections and/or the Working Thought exhibition into course content.

This is the fourth summer workshop presented as part of Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh, a consortium of local museums, galleries and archives working together to share information and expertise, and foster collaboration in research, teaching, and public engagement.

How to apply

Applications are welcome from Pitt faculty and graduate students engaged in the theme of the workshop, from any discipline and any department, who are interested to engage with objects, collections, archives and museums.

Email applications to Alex Taylor alex.taylor@pitt.edu as a single Word document. Include a current CV and a short statement (approximately 500 words) explaining why you would like to participate, what you hope to gain, and what project or projects you can envisage carrying forward from the workshop (with the understanding, of course, that your initial ideas will probably transform as you explore the collections and work with other participants). Please also indicate your availability to attend the Working Thought symposium in the afternoon of May 4. Graduate students should include brief letter from their faculty supervisor or director of graduate studies confirming support of the application. Faculty should arrange a brief letter or email from their department chair or supervisor confirming her/his support.

Application deadline: February 25, 2019

For more information email alex.taylor@pitt.edu