Using cultural strategies to bring Creative Resilience to life
The Workers Portrait Installation
Spitfire partnered with the People’s Project, a Los Angeles nonprofit powered by the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, to produce Creative Resilience, which would bring to life a cultural experience set to amplify the experiences and voices of BIPOC Angeleno workers. Located in Los Angeles’ bustling arts district, Spitfire commissioned artists, activists, speakers and performers to transform a 10,000-square-foot raw space into an environment focused on economic and racial justice.
One art installation that was a cornerstone of the gallery was a Workers Portraits display.
Through the Workers Portraits series, Spitfire developed an installation that represented and spoke to the core of Los Angeles’ workforce while highlighting the diversity, background and history of the city itself. This project brought together five Los Angeles county-based photographers and over 50 subjects, each representing one of the most popular occupations in Los Angeles county according to 2020 census data and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor. The process involved curating existing workers’ portraits as well as commissioning our photographers to capture one-of-a-kind images just for this exhibition.
The workforce population in Los Angeles County is rich in its diversity, so it was important to look through an equity, diversity, and inclusion lens, when selecting photographers and subjects to best help bring that diversity and culture forward. Photographers captured workers across various industries such as health care, construction and education, which included occupations ranging from nurses and school teachers to longshoremen and medical workers – who all should be considered the unsung heroes of the economy. Over the course of the 10 days, viewers spoke about seeing their own lives represented in the photos whether it was through the inclusion of their own occupation or that of their friends’ and families’ lines of work. One of the first individuals to lay eyes on the finished piece was one of our docents who recognized not only his previous work as a postal service carrier but also knew the postal service workers captured in the portrait from their time on the job together. This type of recognition was what we set out to accomplish during the conception of Creative Resilience, a chance for BIPOC community members of Los Angeles to come together and see themselves represented while bonding over their struggles, accomplishments, pasts and futures. News coverage of the display from outlets such as LA Weekly explored the event’s mission and vision as reporters explored the space, engaged in our programming, and saw and felt firsthand what Creative Resilience set out to do.
We would like to thank the photographers who joined us in this endeavor for all of their hard work, which went into making this installation possible: Ringo Chiu, Sam Comen, Kevin B. Jones, Halline Overby and Chris Olivarez.