ASTORIA, QUEENS — A new art piece in Socrates Sculpture Park puts the spotlight — literally — on the union members responsible for much of the city’s building, construction and electrical work.

The public art installation, entitled “Muscle Memory,” is the product of a collaboration between electrical workers from Local 3 I.B.E.W., trade workers from the Workers Art Coalition and students and alumni from SUNY Empire State’s Harry Van Arsdale Jr. School of Labor Studies.

The sculpture is intended to represent the “material intelligence” of union construction trades workers, which is often rendered invisible, according to the Workers Art Coalition, which grew out of the public art classes at SUNY Empire State.

“It feels good to design, collaborate and participate in something in public space that shines a light on a particularly interesting group of people and workers who are constantly under-appreciated and misunderstood,” Local 3 electrical worker Paul Vance, the lead artist on the project, said in a statement.

Shaped like a spiraling electrical conduit, the sculpture plays aloud the voices of union electricians sharing stories, including a portion of an archive created for the Library of Congress’ Archie Green Fellowship to document “occupational folklife.”

At night, the sculpture is lit by two solar panels installed by the electrical workers.

“By connecting what these members do in their trade to create this artwork, they’ve enriched their cultural and artistic passions as well,” Local 3 I.B.E.W. treasurer Michael Yee said.

“Muscle Memory” is on display in Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria through March 2020.





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