New art exhibit in Hamilton celebrates skilled tradeswomen in Ontario

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Published March 7, 2023 at 5:16 pm

Tomorrow, on International Women’s Day 2023, a student art exhibit that amplifies women in skilled trades will open in Hamilton.

Students in the graphic design program of Mohawk College collaborated with tradeswomen across Ontario to make an illustrated poster series and art exhibition, drawing inspiration by asking the participating tradeswomen to write about their career journeys. That cultimate in paintingsand illustrated posters that will be the focus of an art exhibit at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre in Hamilton (wahc-museum.ca) at 51 Stuart St., near the West Harbour.

The exhibit will run until April 15, and will be open to the public during regular business hours. Admission is free.

“This poster series is the product of the students’ creative collaboration, celebrating the work of women and underrepresented gender identities in the skilled trades,” said Leif Peng, the Mohawk graphic design professor who assigned the project.

“Women and gender-diverse workers across sectors still struggle for gender parity, safe workplaces, and pay equity. Like the tools these artists and skilled tradeswomen use in their daily work, we know that a brighter future is in our hands. We hope these posters will inspire future tradeswomen and encourage solidarity for all women and gender-diverse workers.”

The focus of the WAHC, which was organized in Hamilton in the 1990s, is to celebrate the history of workers and labour. Its permanent collection relates to workers’ experiences and labour history, and it also has rotating exhibitions such as this new made-at-Mohawk effort.

“We’re thrilled to commemorate International Women’s Day 2023 with this collaborative exhibition,” said Kat Williams, who is the outreach and development specialist with the WAHC.

“These evocative posters highlight the important work of women and gender-diverse people in the skilled trades. Generative intersections between art and labour, like this exhibition, are at the heart of WAHC’s mission.”

Each student was assigned a specific tradeswoman as their subject, and challenged to create an acrylic portrait or montage of their subject doing her work and then designing a poster to illustrate that tradeswoman’s career journey. Many of the posters blend art and typography, as one full-scale model of a work by student Alison Malley illustrates.

The collaborative art project was part of a partnership with the Ontario Building and Construction Tradeswomen (OBCT), which is affiliated with the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario (PBCTCO),

“The Building Trades are proud to see the diverse showcasing of construction tradeswomen through a creative lens that gives insights into the individual crafts that build our province,” said Marc Arsenault, who is business manager and secretary-treasurer of the PBCTCO.

The Workers Arts and Heritage Centre is open four days weekly, from Wednesday till Saturday. Hours are 10-4 on the weekdays, and 12-4 on Saturdays.

(Images: Alison Malley, a third-semester graphic design student at Mohawk College.)

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