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Artists and Labour: Past, Present and Future

Centre for Social Justice
Event organized by Centre for Social Justice

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This panel explores the complex relationship between artists and organized labour, culture and class politics.

Between the 1980s and early 2000s, major labour arts initiatives including the founding of the Mayworks Festival and the establishment of the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre took place. Recently, the decline of organized labour has diminished support for labour arts initiatives. Part of the problem is the political undervaluing of culture by unions. Culture is okay when class struggles are going well but are often dispensed with when the going gets rough: at the very moment it is needed most. Now is the time when the labour movement should be supporting the creation of cultural works that connect with communities, represent the experiences of precarious workers, and oppose the commercialization of culture. Although artists are the long-standing exemplars of precarious workers, today, they are organized, and, as such, offer insights into how to organize precarious workers across sectors. Unfortunately, this is seldom acknowledged by much of the labour movement.


Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge - "Labour Arts: a history and a practice"

Jerry Lee Miller - "Can Social Art be Saved?"

Mohammad Ali - "Art as a Tool for Social Change"

Kelly Flinn - "Power of Association? Visual Artists' Labour Organizing in Canada"

Glen Richards and Brian Davis - "And Now for Something Completely Different" ( 25 minute video screening)

Lynn Brophy and Sam Gindin, "Art and union education work: the CAW and Port Elgin in the 1990s"