Close-up on farm workers: LAVA Center launches touring exhibit celebrating agricultural workers, on view at GCC through Feb. 16
|Published: 02-02-2024 12:00 PM
With a full body of work compiled over 2023’s farming and harvest seasons, Local Access to Valley Arts (The LAVA Center) is launching a touring exhibit for “indiVISIBLE: Seeing and Celebrating Indispensable Agricultural Workers” this week at Greenfield Community College.
For the last year, the indiVISIBLE project team has been in the fields of Franklin County documenting agricultural workers’ stories and sharing their lives, their dreams and their relationships through photographs and oral histories and the fruits of their labor are now on display for the public to check out.
“IndiVISIBLE” will be on exhibition in East 103 at Greenfield Community College during the college’s regular open hours, through Feb. 16. The project is supported by a Mass Humanities grant funded through the Barr Foundation, as well as grants from the The Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice and Greening Greenfield.
“When we were invited onto a farm … we saw these little microcosms of community that really worked well,” said project Co-director Lindy Whiton, adding that while there is so much national dialogue around immigration, her goal for the project was to focus on just the people. “I wanted to look at the humanitarian piece of it and who are the people putting food on our tables. Who are the farm workers?”
Their work culminates in this gallery exhibition, which focuses on five central themes that kept appearing across the project: workers’ relationships with the earth, travel stories, family stories, the history of the Caribbean and Ashfield’s Clark Brothers Orchards, which extended a welcoming hand to Whiton and others working on indiVISIBLE.
The gallery will feature photos of workers and farms throughout the growing and harvest season, which will then be supplemented by excerpts from interviews of those in the fields, focusing on their experiences, their stories and their hopes.
“It really played with our idea of what family and safety are,” Whiton said, adding the Pioneer Valley isn’t always as safe or welcoming “for everybody as it is for us.” “There’s things we don’t think about and they think about it daily.”
When the project was announced, Whiton’s co-director, Alfonso Herrera-Neal, said their goal was to spark up discussions about the people — often seasonal workers — who bring food to our tables.
“We want to place them in the context of how they are part of the community and how they make the community thrive,” Neal said in April. “How do we start these conversations to get to know and understand each other better?”
On top of generating discussion and thoughts about those working in the fields, Whiton said their goal is to provide some education about the farming industry. As an added benefit to the project, the LAVA Center is also working with GCC to use some of the information present in indiVISIBLE to develop curriculum around the topic.
“The idea is to give the audience enough information to be better educated about farming in Franklin County,” Whiton said, adding they want to “get other people interested in the issue.”
The gallery will remain open at GCC through Feb. 16 and will also make other stops around the county — although exact dates have yet to be finalized. In May, though, indiVISIBLE will return to the LAVA Center, where anyone can view it during open hours.
More information about indiVISIBLE, as well as its companion podcast, The indiVISIBLE Hour, is available at the project’s website at indivisiblegreenfield.org.
Chris Larabee can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4081.