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Volume 3
2008

Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives Exhibition

  • John P. Beck
  • School of Labor & Industrial Relations
  • College of Social Science
Design for 'Workers Culture in Two Nations' poster and exhibition.
Design for "Workers Culture in Two Nations" poster and exhibition.

John Beck sees work as one of the most important means by which we define ourselves and others. Work affects us and we in turn affect work. But Beck's interest in work also extends beyond the workplace. According to Beck, "Our relationship to work is not only economic and social, it is cultural as well. Our personal and communal relationships to work take many cultural and artistic forms expressed through poetry and narrative, sculpture and painting, humor and drama, craft and representation. Through expressive culture, we integrate our occupation and personal life."

In his capacity as adjunct curator for the MSU Museum, John Beck co-directs, with Yvonne R. Lockwood, "Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives," a project that focuses on workers' culture. Dr. Lockwood is curator of folklife at the Museum and senior academic specialist, Michigan State University Extension. Established by the MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program and the School of Labor and Industrial Relations' Labor Education Program, "Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives" showcases the rich diversity of workers' experiences and cultures. Presentation formats include poetry readings, exhibits of paintings, and lunchtime "brown bag" discussions.

"I love my work with Michigan unions and employers, which focuses on workers gaining greater voice and increased job security, employers gaining greater effectiveness and viability, and communities retaining vitality and stability."

John Beck

Yvonne R. Lockwood and John Beck, curators of 'Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives.'
Yvonne R. Lockwood and John Beck, curators of "Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives."

In both 2001 and 2003, this program co-sponsored art exhibitions by Lansing area UAW members, which were held at the Creole Gallery in Lansing. More recently, in April 2007, Doug Rademacher, president of UAW Local 602, gave a "brown bag" talk on "Life and Work in the Shadow of the Verlinden Plant: UAW Local 602 Oral History Project." Beck advised the Local 602 oral history project team, which recorded over 125 interviews with plant management, current and retired workers, skilled tradespeople, and a number of business owners and neighbors who grew up near the Lansing Verlinden plant. Local 602 also aided Lockwood and Beck in their 2006-2007 exhibit, "Workers Culture in Two Nations: South Africa and the United States," which focused on autoworkers, miners, domestics, and agricultural laborers in both countries.

In 2003, Beck and Lockwood won a "Sustained Effort Toward Excellence in Diversity" award for "Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives."

For more information, visit museum.msu.edu/s-program/mtap/Programs&Services/dailylives.html.