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Laborpaste art projects comes to Gary

JB Daniel's Laborpaste art is on display in downtown Gary.

A Pullman artist has plastered life-sized photos of labor leader Eugene Debs and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in downtown Gary.

Chicago artist J.B. Daniel expanded his Laborpaste project to downtown Gary at the urging of local activist and Calumet Artist Residency Secretary Sam Love. He has wheatpasted large black-and-white photographs of labor leaders like Dolores Huerta holding a "huelga" sign during the 1960s California grape strikes of the 1960s throughout his home base in Chicago's Pullman neighborhood 

Love had a chance meeting with Daniel, who's exhibited at galleries throughout Chicago, and invited him to Gary. Parks Superintendent Lori Latham, a fellow Calumet Artist Residency board member, agreed to let him install Laborpaste pieces in Gateway Park across from the Gary City Hall.

"Labor history constantly has to be told and retold because so many working people are in a constant state of forgetting," Love said. "And there are outright attacks against the contributions of women, especially black women, to the labor movement. Laborpaste is a simple and very public way to re-remember our history."

The images of Debs and Tubman are right downtown, by the gates to the U.S. Steel Gary Works mill.

"I love that Harriet and Gene are there greeting people passing through Gary's busiest gateway," Love said. "I look forward to watching them fade over the seasons and scheming up new ways to make people remember."

Daniel was inspired to start the project after Pullman was named a National Monument. He hopes to surprise viewers with realistic-looking photographs that come with no labels or explanations.

"There seemed to be two stories," he said. "One was about the gilded age of the industrialists and the other was the Labor movement. I wanted to do something to bring the ongoing labor story to life by bringing the past in to the present. Positioning historic labor leaders in unlikely places as contemporary citizens, hopes to engage the viewers curiosity and perhaps even offer some hope in these troubled days."

More and more art is springing up in downtown Gary. The acclaimed graffiti artst Felix "Flex" Maldonado and his assistant Omar "OMS" Marin painted a four-story Jackson 5 mural on an abandoned building at 561 Broadway. And Theaster Gate's new ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen is wrapped in a light sculpture that was installed by Virginia-based design team Ripple + Wilson.


Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.