An unusual art exhibition that celebrates the Centennial of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), opens in Los Angeles on June 17th., 2005. The A Shenere Velt Gallery in West Los Angeles presents The Traveling Wobbly Show, a visual chronicle of the IWW in comics, poster art, photographs, pamphlets and ephemera. Featuring artworks from the likes of Sue Coe, Carlos Cortez, Trina Robbins, Peter Kuper, Seth Tobocman, Spain Rodriguez, and many others, the exhibit will eventually tour 17 cities in the United States with a stop in Winnipeg Canada. For those unable to attend the L.A. opening, The Traveling Wobbly Show maintains a website [ www.wobblyshow.org ] where you can see a small sampling of the artworks as well as a list of cities included on the tour schedule. Better yet, curator Paul Buhle has also authored a stunning full color book that acts as an exhibition catalog for the historic show.
A century ago, the IWW were the largest association of organized militant workers in the United States. At their highpoint in the early 1900’s they boasted some 100,000 members, but their influence went way beyond their actual membership. Founded in Chicago in June of 1905, the Wobblies envisioned a radical trade unionism that would organize all workers into "One Big Union". They welcomed all workers into their fold, foreigners, immigrants, women, people of color - and they believed that strikes, slowdowns, walkouts, and boycotts were necessary to win a better world for workers. The government turned to violent repression in order to destroy the Wobblies, and perhaps the most famous victim of this crack-down was an IWW organizer named Joe Hill - who was falsely accused of murder and executed by the state of Utah in 1915. Hill’s death was memorialized in the now famous American folk song, I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night (beautifully sung by songbird Joan Baez). In fact, song was a major part of the Wobblie plan of action. They promulgated their ideas and platform through song - on the picket line; in the workplace; in the meeting halls; and in the jails. In 1904 they published their Little Red Songbook, which included the classic, Solidarity Forever, an anthem still sung today by unionists and activists all around the world.
The exhibit starts on Sunday, July 17th, 2005, with an Opening Reception that begins at 7 and runs until 9 pm (free). The A Shenere Velt Gallery/Workmen’s Circle will be hosting other events related to the exhibit. On Sat., July 23rd there will be a concert of Wobbly song and poetry. On Sun., July 24th., there will be a day-long bus tour of L.A. to view the city’s murals devoted to labor. And on Thurs., August 25th, there will be a panel discussion on the history of the IWW and their relevancy to today’s labor movement. The A Shenere Velt Gallery/Workmen’s Circle is located at 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035. Phone: 310-552-2007. For a full listing of gallery hours and events, visit www.circlesocal.org