ALCStudies Journal

Advanced Labor & Cultural Studies Web Site & Blog

Monthly Archives: January 2010

Working Artists in the ‘Burgh

Some of the hardest-working people I know in Pittsburgh are artists. Many of them work in relative obscurity, following their creative muse. It’s a ‘burgh thing as much as pierogies, the three rivers and dancing policemen. I recently reviewed an exhibit for the Pittsburgh City Paper. DØ.YOU.ND3RST@ND? runs January 15 – February 13th at Future Tenant, a gallery on Penn Avenue run by CMU’s Master of Arts Management (MAM) program. The work on display explores the impact of technology on the ways human beings communicate (or don’t). It’s enjoyable, humorous and thought-provoking. If Andy Warhol were still alive, I’m sure he would be using Facebook[1]. So check the exhibit out and afford the participants their fifteen minutes of fame.  


One of my favorite group of artists in Pittsburgh are the Amish Monkeys. I know Gina (who works at the gym where I excercise) and her husband Frank, who run the improv troupe. Each of the members has a day job to pay the bills, but they have a lot of fun performing. More importantly, the audience has fun watching them. I’ve seen them on stage three or four times and always go back. I recommend catching them at Gemini Theater or other venues around Pittsburgh.


The following aren’t local, but intrigued me:


[1] Warhol’s own idea of work seemed lackadaisical at best. He commented, “I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of "work" because I think that just being alive is so much work at something you don’t always want to do it.”



Abraham Twerski on Work and Identity*

Are we our jobs? Do we exist solely to promote an employer’s ‘brand’?  Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski says no.
*Dr Twerski is a renowned psychiatrist and founder of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh.

New ‘To Be of Use’ Interviews; Jobs for Main Street in 2010


I will perform To Be of Use:  Stories of Labor and Identity again at the Steel Valley Arts Council’s ArtSpace in Homestead in April 2010.  I’ve started conducting further interviews of workers in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I’ve got the Cookie Man from Saudi Arabia who drives a Tastykake™ truck and the guy at my gym who manages a restaurant lined up. Please let me know if you or someone you know would like to participate. The interviews take about an hour and are anonymous.

I’ve mentioned the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and other 1930s-era initiatives such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the need for similar programs now. On December 16th 2009 Congress passed the Jobs for Main Street bill (H.R. 2847). The bill directs the allocation of TARP funds for federal workforce training and infrastructure programs beginning in 2010. The money will not go toward continuing government handouts to failed Wall Street investment firms or individuals, but toward putting Americans to work. The bill is designed to fix and improve crumbling highways, bridges and inefficient railroads. It will help ensure operating fire and police services, safe schools, available public forests and development of renewable energy programs. Allowing people to develop real skills and contribute useful work endows them with a sense of competence and pride. It gives them an identity[1] and a material investment in the society in which they live. And providing folks a few bucks to spend from money they earn isn’t bad for the economy.

Happy New Year.

[1]Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: an Inquiry into the Value of Work, The New Atlantis, 2006

%d bloggers like this: