Building Trades

32BJ Members Strengthen Solidarity through Art

July 22, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

32BJ members display their artistic talents at the union’s annual art show

New York, NY—The members of the 120,000-member strong 32BJ SEIU property services union work as doormen, porters, handymen, security officers and window cleaners but also moonlight as painters, photographers and poets. They've had an opportunity to showcase their artistic talent for the past several years thanks to the annual art show hosted by their union. Watch Video

For this year's art show, over 300 people attended the opening to view nearly 200 pieces of art contributed by more than 80 32BJ members and their families. The art on display is an eclectic ensemble of drawings, paintings and black-and-white and color photographs that are representative of the diversity of the members themselves, who hail from as far as Eastern Europe, Latin America, South America and Asia.

Lenore Friedlaender, assistant to the president at 32BJ SEIU, said that the annual event gives 32BJ members who work in different sectors across the city the opportunity to work together on a project.  

"They're from all over the world and do lots of different jobs. We're really proud of the work they do and we think they have an important message and perspective to share," said Friedlaender. 

Interest in the art show is increasing as more members are participating since the union first hosted the art show back in 2006. In fact, a committee made up of the members themselves organizes the show by agreeing upon a theme for the year's show and designing the promotional materials. 

"Many of our members think they don't have a lot of talent, but they have tremendous talent whether they're painters, poets, musicians or photographers. They really have incredible talents and have a wonderful perspective to share," Friedlaendar said.

Some of the works on display, which will remain on display at 32BJ's offices through the end of the month, include photos taken from the first car of an east- and west-bound 7 train, a portrait of Michael Jackson and a painting of a woman to commemorate the Day of the Dead, a ritual that goes back almost 3,000 years. 

The artistic work created by 32BJ members is an opportunity for them to express their everyday inspirations, portray their children or convey a particular social message. 

Booker T. Williams, Jr., who draws and plays the saxophone, displayed a drawing he calls "BitterSweet/Fructose Free America" to represent his interpretation of American history. The drawing consists of different candy bar packaging whose iconic brand names are replaced with the names of political leaders, movements and musical genres. 

"The inspiration was a Hershey candy bar to display a bittersweet history of the United States," said Williams, Jr. 

For 32BJ member Marlon Moreira, who is displaying two painting pieces to show his interest in Ecuadorian and Mexican cultures, said he turns to art when he's going through a tough time.

"Art is a necessity for life. It's like air or water. You need it. Without it you feel kind of lost," said Moreira. 

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July 22, 2013

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