Authors and artists win cash for writings, visual art on labor.

Students Take Home Top Prizes in Labor Arts Contest

May 12, 2014

Senior Sean Blair 

Junior Elizabeth Mahoney 

Several Brooklyn College students took home awards in the 2014 Making Work Visible art contest, an annual competition that aims to expand student engagement with the history of labor and workers in the United States, and to revitalize the study of labor history at the City University of New York.

Sponsored by CUNY and Labor Arts, an organization whose mission is to present images that encourage understanding of the contributions working people make to our society, the contest’s organizers asked students to submit entries that were about work and workers, and that fit one of four categories: essay, poetry, fiction/non-fiction narrative, and visual art. Brooklyn College students won six of the total 15 awards that were selected from more than 120 contest submissions.

Senior Sean Blair, a television and radio major, placed first in the fiction/non-fiction category for his short story set in the Homestead Steel strike of 1892, a topic he has been interested in since high school. "I’m a huge history nerd so this was right up my alley," he said.

Elizabeth Mahoney, a junior majoring in American studies, also placed first in the essay category for her piece on queer activism around labor issues. "There is a lot of silence about queer issues in labor unions," says the Boston native. "There is really no precedent of talking about it. I’d like to try to open up the conversation." 

Two other students, junior Alicia Adams, a chemistry major, and  sophomore Kendy Rodriguez, a film production major, got third place and an honorable mention respectively in the poetry category. Sophomore Amanda Williams, a computer science major, received an honorable mention in fiction/non-fiction narrative and sophomore Peter Freleng, a fine arts major, placed third in the visual art category.

The award ceremony was held April 30 at the College’s Graduate Center for Worker Education in lower Manhattan. The center has a new director, Lucas G. Rubin, the assistant dean of academic programs and continuing education.

Rubin said he plans to build on the center’s tradition of providing interdisciplinary courses, hosting special events and conferences, and building partnerships with community organizations to create a learning environment that supports adults.

"I was attracted to the opportunity to create something innovative, dynamic, and collaborative, and to pay respect to the traditional worker center while re-imagining it for the 21st century," he said.  

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