Santa Cruz Migrant Working Community Poster Project

Enrique Leal with the Western Service Workers Association and the Little Giant Collective, UC Santa Cruz

This Placemaking project involves two partnerships, one with Western Service Workers Association in Santa Cruz (, an organization that provides cooperative assistance and networking for low-income workers by providing emergency food, clothing, non-emergency dental care, preventative medical care, child care assistance, job referral, legal assistance, as well as information and referral services. The second partner is Little Giant Collective ( , a group of printmakers in Santa Cruz that promote the graphic visibility of processes through which citizens have a voice in public policy decisions while denouncing exclusionary tactics that undermine the right to participate in the democratic process.

The project will address migrant working communities in the Santa Cruz area, by travelling to their worksites, homes and community spaces. For the migrant community the sense of “place” or home is the thing most absent. In creating these small, local, print media works, we will provide them agency and a grounding to place. They are meant to be graphic reminders to a more humane life where their voice is heard and vision recognized. In making visible the basic information, in Spanish, this will provide a temporary place of refuge and hope, via the artworks that they themselves will create. As a Spanish speaker who has lived in different cultures, this topic is particularly relevant to me as an artist and educator.

This project will give not only basic techniques in the screen printers graphic arts and social activist tradition, but also bring information and access to the resource network available to this community: health care/aid, counseling, emergency care, and access to legal assistance. Based on some of the traditions of the Graphics Arts Division of the Workers Projects Administration of the Roosevelt era New Deal, when artists were given work that went out into the communities and held content of social relevance, our activities will serve the newest generation of migrant workers in the United States. As we know, they are now facing the most severe living situations and surveillance, with basic living conditions often at a minimum. In reaching out to these communities, that for generations have provided the rest of the country with our main food production, this info-graphics may help to alleviate some of their suffering. We will provide a small transportable “art-station”, able to travel on wheels and go out into the fields, into neighborhoods, or local churches, and unfold to be able to provide materials and inks for creating on the spot posters and graphics via simple silk-screen techniques. These will be water-based and non-toxic. Each community and workshop will be able to narrate their own stories, own questions and answers to vital information and access necessary resources for their health and well-being. These works on paper will be the visual documentation of a generation in flux, crossing borders and seeking a better life.