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Workplace Art
August 20, 2003

Can artists survive a corporation?

A new satiric play looks at art and the contemporary corporate workplace. Playwrights Randy Kapelke and Char Miller wrote "Cubed" over their lunch hour at a technical writing firm. The show addresses two crucial questions: "Can artists survive a corporation?" and "Can a corporation survive artists?"

After sold-out performances at the Minneapolis Fringe Festival this month, Kapelke and Miller visited KFAI with their cast to perform an excerpt. The actors are Kelly Clark, Eric Penniston, Sarah Ross, Hope Moy and Jeff Jesmer.

The director is Anthony Stanton; the assistant director, Chris Durant; and the stage manager, Eve Gibson.


Designers compete in company bathroom

Desperate for any diversion from their deadly dull jobs, one firm's workers found a creative outlet . . . in the lavatory! That's where they designed elaborate structures from rolls of toilet paper. From his new home in Chico, California, essayist Anthony Peyton Porter recalls the anonymous competition.

Handbook a management nightmare

A Detroit-based monthly magazine called Labor Notes published the Bible on workplace art in 1991. In the Troublemakers' Handbook, author Dan La Botz explored creative strategies for rank-and-filers to build solidarity, organize unions, keep the boss at bay, and win strikes.

Now an all-new edition of the handbook is in the works. Julie McCall, a song-parody writer in Washington, D.C., has written a chapter focusing on labor art and culture. She shares stories of her favorite workplace art projects, from unauthorized music to an embarrassing new company mascot, from Elvis impersonations to a newsletter column called "Turkey of the Month."

All of the projects undermined management authority and helped workers establish or strengthen their union. The new handbook will be available next year though www.labornotes.org.

Cartoonist Creates Screen Saver

Newspaper Guild members at the St. Paul Pioneer Press have been working without a contract since last summer. Talks with the newspaper's owner, California-based Knight-Ridder, are stuck on pay, health insurance and the Guild’s ability to go on strike in support of other Pioneer Press unions.

Hoping to avert a strike, Guild members are getting creative. Their tactics have included a screen-saver that showed up on computers throughout the building last winter, slamming management's contract offer. The screen-saver consisted of a searing editorial cartoon by Pioneer Press cartoonist Kirk Anderson. He tells why he stuck out his neck for his co-workers and responds to speculation that this union work explains his "layoff" in April after eight years as the paper's cartoonist.

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