Sometimes as artists we put many hours into the development of a mural proposal. The Arizona Labor History Mural is one such project. The initial mural proposal made in 1999. The goal remains the same to this day, to have this mural placed on a prominent wall in the downtown of Tucson. Some day the political and cultural climate of Southern Arizona may at last be tolerant of images that vividly portray a living peoples’ history. Ironically the struggle to create this mural in many ways mirrors the struggles of working class people in Arizona, currently a “right to work” state.
In 1998-99 colleagues and I interviewed people from various unions and organizations including Jobs with Justice, Southern Arizona Central Labor Council, Southwest Alliance for Economic Justice and members of the International Union of Mime Mill and Smelter Workers. These interviews took place over a period of several years and became the contextual basis for this project. The Tucson Arts Brigade (TAB) organized a series of popular education workshops revolving around the theme. The research also became the basis for the TAB Community Works project that resulted in the display of a series of bus bench images throughout the city from 1999-2001. The drawings and watercolor images you see here were part of the design phase of the project. The final design is presented in this visual essay as well.
There are several themes represented in these works that come up over and over again. The Bisbee and Jerome deportations of IWW members, the film Salt of the Earth, the massive 1983 strikes in Morenci, Ajo, Clifton and Douglas as well as the contributions of communication and farm workers, teachers and teamsters in literally building Arizona. The struggles for a minimum wage, women's rights, civil rights, a workers bill of rights, a safe and clean works place, affordable health care and housing are also depicted in the images. People like Juan Chacon and César Chávez are represented with regional labor celebrities.
The support for this project all along came from ordinary working people. Everyday people who struggle to make ends meet on a daily basis. It is for them this project is dedicated.