Faculty Members, Alumni and Students Create Salute to Labor for Regional Gala
UC Davis faculty members Glenda Drew, professor of design, and Jesse Drew, professor of cinema and digital media, in collaboration with Melissa Chandon, continuing lecturer in design, and the International Class Conscious Photographers Collective, created “WE ARE ESSENTIAL,” a site-specific media arts installation specially crafted for the “Salute to Labor Awards Gala.” Held on Nov. 16 at the Golden 1 Center, the event was hosted by the Sacramento Central Labor Council, a consortium of over 100 labor organizations.
A tribute to working people, “WE ARE ESSENTIAL” highlights the indispensable contributions of workers who played a pivotal role keeping our nation safe and functioning throughout the extended COVID shutdown. Beyond this, it celebrates their ongoing contributions during more normal times. The heart of the installation unfolds through compelling portraits and testimonies representing the narratives of truck drivers, healthcare professionals, restaurant staff, sanitation workers, and others who, despite inherent risks, ensured the continuous flow of essential supplies and services. The immersive experience extends across temporary walls plastered with evocative images and onto the multitude of video screens that line the walkways within the arena, creating a dynamic visual tapestry.
Installation support was provided by design undergraduate Maev Dunning and alum Jean Menezes (MFA, design ‘20). The artists expressed particular enthusiasm for the opportunity to present their work to this particular Sacramento audience, bridging a gap between those who may not typically engage with art in traditional museum and gallery settings. For these artists, the presentation of their work emphasizes their conviction that public universities have a responsibility to serve the community in ways that extend far beyond the confines of standard arts and culture institutions.