On Equal Terms: EXHIBIT CONSIDERS PRIDE, HARDSHIP FOR WOMEN IN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
A new exhibit at the Michigan State University Museum takes a look at tradeswomen’s 30-year struggle for access and equality in the construction industry. “On Equal Terms: A Mixed-Media Installation by Susan Eisenberg” opens in the Main Gallery on Feb. 5.
“On Equal Terms” addresses the cost of gender barriers in any occupation -- and what it means to treat all individuals on equal terms. Rooted in a political and cultural context, the mixed-media art exhibition celebrates the construction industry and the women who leave their signatures on the skyline.
Susan Eisenberg, an artist, poet, activist, Brandeis University scholar and master electrician, interviewed more than 30 other women in the trades -- including ironworkers, electricians, painters, plumbers and carpenters -- about their experiences. Her installation reflects these candid conversations.
“On Equal Terms” combines realistic and fanciful works of art with first-person testimony and historical documents to ask why, in 2012, women remain less than 3 percent of the construction workforce. In one section, the exhibit recreates the experience of the first women who crossed onto construction sites in 1978, when a major federal public policy effort opened jobs and apprenticeship training to women. Also in the gallery, a full-scale bathroom shack, filled with offensive and misogynistic graffiti, recreates the not-uncommon and non-subtle messages sent to tradeswomen in the workplace.
At the same time, “On Equal Terms” demonstrates the successful intersection of work and family life for tradeswomen.
“The installation really melds the pride and hardship of the tradeswomen’s experiences,” explains Eisenberg. “A brightly colored birthday cake, for example, mixes traditionally disparate gender roles as it’s topped with plastic tools, a pink Mini Mouse car, and the frosted text, ‘My kids know which bridges in town are mine.’”
“On Equal Terms” debuted at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., in 2009. This traveling exhibition comes to Michigan State University in partnership with the Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives workers culture program (produced by the MSU Museum and Labor Education Program, School of Human Resources and Labor Relations in the College of Social Science).
The exhibit runs through May 13 and programs include:
-Poetry Reading: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Creole Gallery, 1218 Turner Street, Lansing;
Sponsored by the Old Town Poetry Series.
-Opening Reception: Sunday, Feb. 5, 3 p.m.; MSU Museum Main Gallery.
-Our Daily Work/ Our Daily Lives Lecture Series: Monday, Feb. 6, 12:15 - 1:30 p.m.; MSU Museum Auditorium; “On Equal Terms: Respect, Opportuntiy and Dignity for Women in the Construction Workplace;” Susan Eisenberg, Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University.