Stories Of A Workforce
Photo: Alexander's Fine Portrait Design
Tudor Gallery, Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney Street
September 2, 2014 – January 31, 2015
HAA Folklife + Civic Engagement’s exhibition Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel explored the diverse culture, heritage, and lore of work associated with the Port of Houston and Houston Ship Channel by introducing the general public to the men and women who make up this massive workforce and considering the many changes thy have witnessed over the course of their careers.
The Port of Houston is the great hidden engine of Houston’s prosperity. It is hard to imagine an economic and occupational landmark of such size and importance, and yet so well concealed, as the Port of Houston. Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel endeavored to make the Port of Houston better seen, better heard and better known to the community it serves
The exhibition was driven by interviews and stories collected through the Library of Congress-funded Working the Port project. Working the Port documented the voices of the men and women who have made their living in the occupations and industries found along the Ship Channel. From shipboard to shoreside and loading docks to the board rooms, interviews with industry workers, engineers, executives, merchant marines, marine biologists, environmental specialists, and international traders captured and explored the human experience of this massive complex – all through the words and experiences of individuals.
In addition to photo, audio and video installations, Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel featured maps, signage, memorabilia, banners, painted portscapes, ship models, work gear, logs and objects that enhanced and illustrated the story of this unique and diverse workplace. Additional components of the exhibition included:
- Touch screens to identify types of marine vehicles, their movement and activities in the Ship Channel;
- Time-lapse photography that “piloted” the 52 miles of the ship channel day and night;
- An archive of all of the original audio, photographic and video material from the Working the Port project and the exhibition;
- Curriculum materials for outreach to area schools in advance of their fall 2014 semester;
- Public programs including lectures, demonstrations, workshops, and storytelling sessions.
A fully illustrated exhibition catalog, Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel, was published, featuring excerpts from interviews and essays addressing exhibition concepts.
Presented in partnership with Houston Public Library and in collaboration with HGOco, the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 24, the Port of Houston Authority, Excargo Services, Schroder Marine Services Inc., Anchor Marine & Industrial Supply and Houston Public Media.
Stories of a Workforce was funded in part by the Library of Congress, the Houston Endowment Inc., the National Endowment for the Arts, the Susan Vaughan Foundation, the Port of Houston Authority, Humanities Texas, Excargo Services and Schroder Marine Services, Inc. Title sponsor of the exhibition was the Houston Pilots.
Eyes of the Port: A Lecture + Slide Show by Lou Vest
Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6 p.m.
Reading Room, Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney St.
Houston Pilot Lou Vest has become the eyes of the Houston Ship Channel through his comprehensive photography of its 50-plus miles. From container vessels to labor on the docks, his photos embrace both the vastness and the intimacy of the port as a workplace. A preview of HGOco’s “On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel preceded the presentation.
ABOUT LOU VEST
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1971, Lou Vest joined the Houston Ship Pilots Association in 1986. He began carrying a camera around in 2005 to document the experience of working on the Houston Ship Channel. Vest hopes to correct the fact that both the region and the nation’s people seem unaware of the busiest port in the United States
Kids' Day at Stories of a Workforce
Saturday, October 18, 2014, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Kids’ Day was a program for kids interested in exploring maritime life with activities such as tying fancy knots, telling stories, building model boats, trying on work clothes and cruising the Channel in miniature. Participants included Lorena Alvarez, George and Patrick Larrimer and Shanty Chor.
“On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel
Auditorium, Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney St.
Presented by Houston Grand Opera/HGOco
September 27, December 10, December 17, 2014;
January 7, 2015, January 21, 2015
Composer D. J. Sparr and Librettist Janine Joseph.
HGOco is Houston Grand Opera’s unique initiative that connects HGO to the community through meaningful collaboration. They use words and music—the very essences of opera—to tell stories of those who call Houston home. HGOco infuses opera into the lives of Houstonians through performances in schools, workshops, lectures, student-only performances, vocal training programs, opera camps and the award-winning Song of Houston projects.
Elders of ILA 24, A Special Presentation
Wednesday, January 14, 2015, 6 p.m.
Reading Room, Julia Ideson Building, 550 McKinney St.
The story of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 24 is reflective of a lesser-known part of Houston’s port life and is a living testament to the dramatic shifts in socioeconomic conditions over the last 50 years. Individuals who experienced these changes shared compelling narratives.
ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL LONGSHOREMEN’S ASSOCIATION
The International Longshoremen's Association (AFL-CIO) is the largest union of maritime workers in North America, representing upwards of 65,000 longshoremen on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Great Lakes, major U.S. rivers, Puerto Rico and Eastern Canada. Organized in 1892 along the U.S. Great Lakes, the ILA is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations; the Canadian Labour Congress; and the world-wide International Transport Workers' Federation. Additionally, the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots; the United Marine Division Tugboat Workers; and the New York State Supreme Court Officers are affiliated with the ILA.
Houston Chronicle: Lives of Houston port workers documented in folklore project
Transportation Nation: The Port of Houston through the Voices of Workers
Cite Magazine: Cite 89: Houston’s Place in a Larger World
Guidry News: Port of Houston Authority Commission
Houston Chronicle: Biggers painting now bigger than life for black dockworkers
Texas Highways: Festival celebrates Houston Ship Channel centennial
Houston Public Media: “Stories of a Workforce” Celebrates Ship Channel
Houston Chronicle: Pilot documents life along the ship channel in photos
The exhibition catalog for Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel is now available for purchase online and at the offices of Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), 3201 Allen Parkway, Suite 250, Houston, Texas, 77019, Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. While walk-up purchase is possible during office hours, it is preferable that you call 713.581.6123 and leave a message about your interest. The purchase price is $25 for copies picked up at the offices of HAA, $30 with shipping.