2023 Contest

Making Work Visible

City University of New York / Labor Arts


Group shot of 2023 winnersNew perspectives on work from some extraordinary City University of New York students can be found in these thoughtful writings and artworks. Many of the students talk about work that is too often unseen, from the front lines of the new economy where precarious service jobs reign. Their efforts fulfill the goal of this CUNY/LaborArts contest—to expand student thinking about the history of work, and to provide opportunities to make links between individual lived experience and larger social issues.

City College of New York student Akilah Lisbon’s artwork Gracias a Martín: Courtesy of the Custodian is but one example.

Gracias a Martín: Courtesy of the CustodianLisbon writes: “Martín is my apartment building’s sole custodian as well as an immigrant from the Dominican Republic. Every week he pulls all of the building’s garbage through the parking lot on a small wooden trolley by himself.”

We sincerely hope that these young authors and artists continue on with their work—their voices demand to be heard.

Now in its thirteenth year, the contest is open to all CUNY undergraduates. Entries are judged according to originality, content, and style. Guidelines used for this 2023 contest are here.  Student writers and artists draw upon history, their close observation of the world around them, and a wealth of first hand experiences to link their work to the spirit of labor arts. Every year professors judging the contest reflect on the value of providing opportunities for the students to seriously interrogate their own life experiences and that of those around them.

LaborArts is enormously grateful for generous funding for the contest from the Workforce Development Institute and for ongoing support from the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education.

All photographs by Khanyi Ndaba.