—by Susan Eisenberg
On Equal Terms had a fantastic NYC launch thanks to Stella’s many amazing friends! More than 150 people packed into the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center for the October 3rd opening event, to celebrate tradeswomen, view the installation, and greet old friends. The vocal crowd gave all the speakers a warm and rousing reception.
Painter Miguel Trelles and Executive Dir. Jan Hanvik –– who’ve both done so much for On Equal Terms — spoke on behalf of the Clemente Center and the poet for whom it’s named. Tradeswomen representing 3 generations –– pioneer electrician Melinda Hernandez; Sheet Metal Local #28 training director Leah Rambo; and apprentice carpenter Rudy Mulligan (who got a loud cheer when she said she was ‘the apprentice’) — shared moving personal perspectives. Local 3 IBEW Business Manager Chris Erikson argued that a labor movement that’s under attack cannot afford to harbor discrimination.
Planning has gone on for more than a year and a half. In the last weeks before the truck headed out, when photos of working tradeswomen began to arrive in my email, I started to get really excited. Thanks to Eileen Macdonald of IATSE for gathering photos of women electricians, carpenters, and stagehands on Broadway; thanks to Thom Thacker for photos of Local 79 LIUNA members; to Rudy Mulligan for photos of carpenters; to Celeste Kirkland for images of women in TWU Local 100, and to many individual tradeswomen who added their photos. I love how all those faces personalize the installation!
On Equal Terms arrived in a 16-foot truck. A great crew of tradeswomen and their friends helped unload and carry bathroom shack walls, a toilet, wallpapered panels, a gangbox, and many, many boxes up stairs to the 2nd floor. Tradeswomen helped turn an empty gallery into a mixed media installation: giving a few hours or a few days. Cynthia Long and Melinda Hernandez hung the outdoor banner. Odessa Thomas assisted installer Jack Fahey. Lisa Narducci and Veronica Session built the stud walls and attached the panels that Boston tradeswomen Gayann Wilkinson and Deb Gilcoine had wallpapered on my dining room table. It was fun to see one set of skilled hands start something that another set of skilled hands completed.
Big thanks to the New York District Council of Carpenters Women’s Committee who held their monthly meeting at the gallery, bringing another 40 women. And thanks to Labor Arts, hosting an online exhibition of some elements at http://www.laborarts.org/exhibits/on-equal-terms/.
For those who’ve seen the installation in other cities, in NY you’ll find a new Flying Tool, a torpedo level with a bubble that can move, and a remembrance space created by NY tradeswomen for community members who have died. Honored are: Joi C. Beard, Judy Johannessen, Flora Ng, Nancy Offenhauser, Nancy Quick, Evan Ruderman, Linore Simmond and Patricia Sullivan. Pat’s family –– her sister Eileen, daughter Jennifer and grandsons Jack and Zack –– came early the day of the opening to help get things ready, try on the hard hats, and read Pat’s testimony. Hers is one of 16 individual testimonies from the 1990-1992 NYC Hearings on Discrimination in the Construction Industry visitors can pull out and read in the gallery.
Fri, Nov. 1, 4:30 – 6pm: Poetry Workshop for Tradeswomen.
To sign up contact: OnEqualTerms@brandeis.edu.
Fri, Nov. 1, 6:30 pm: Poetry reading by Susan Eisenberg.
STANLEY’S GIRL and other construction poems.
I’ve been getting calls that Stella’s so thrilled to be in NYC, she’s been slipping out at night!