• Elmwood Park, 71st Street and Buist Avenue, Southwest Philadelphia
  • Cast bronze; exposed aggregate concrete benches with reclaimed black
    locust wood slats; lithocrete, granite, and terracotta brick pavers
  • Work Button Tables - 24" x 36" x 36"; Seating Elements - 18" x 59" x 19"; Central Circular Seating Area - 56' diameter
  • Initiated by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)
  • Owned by the City of Philadelphia

Dedicated in 2010, The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute to the American Worker by artist John Kindness was developed for Elmwood Park with the Friends of Elmwood Park in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Recreation.

The Labor Monument commemorates the contributions of organized labor nationwide and Philadelphia’s working class history. Celebrating Philadelphia’s pivotal and unique role in the American labor movement, the artwork transforms Elmwood Park into a community gathering space and an “outdoor history lesson.”

Workers of earlier generations often wore blue denim clothing, a common denominator regardless of trade or skill, with metal work buttons that bore a variety of images and slogans. Inspired by these buttons, the artist created seven large-scale Work Button Tables in bronze. Each bronze relief sculpture represents an important event in labor history. Located in the center of Elmwood Park, the Work Button Tables are situated in a circle surrounded by seven benches. Blue paving and brick detailing around the seating elements suggest the denim and stitching on workers’ clothing. Project supporters are identified and inscribed in a granite band around the perimeter of the artwork. A pathway connects the central seating area with a small circular court displaying the park’s flagpole.

 

Links:

A New Landmark: Monument to Labor Installed in Philadelphia

 

About Elmwood Park

 

Elmwood park is a 7-acre city park located on 71st and 72nd
streets between Buist and Dicks Avenues in Philadelphia. From the late
nineteenth century through much of the twentieth, Southwest Philadelphia
prided itself on its thriving working class neighborhoods. Many
thousands of Philadelphians raised their families there. They worked for
major industries such as the Hog Island Shipyard, Fels Naptha, General
Electric, and Westinghouse. Elmwood Park was originally developed as a
centerpiece for the community, a gathering place where workers and their
families could relax, socialize, and enjoy the park’s natural
resources. Today, the park has been revitalized and is fitting site for The Labor Monument.
The revitalization efforts were led by The Friends of Elmwood Park, a
community organization chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in
1995. The group supports efforts by community members to secure and
beautify the park.

 

About the Artist

 

John Kindness was born in Belfast, Ireland and currently lives and
works in London, England. Kindness’ father worked in the shipyards of
Belfast, and his working class roots were a source of inspiration as he
worked with the Friends of Elmwood Park to create a unique tribute in
Philadelphia to the American worker. Kindness has completed a number of
public art projects in his native Ireland. He has exhibited extensively
in Europe and the United States and his artworks are included in the
collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Irish Museum of Modern
Art, National Gallery of Ireland, and the Victoria & Albert Museum
among others. In 1997, the artist was featured in a solo exhibition at
the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and
was artist-in-residence at Philadelphia’s Fleisher Art Memorial. The
artist returned to Philadelphia in 2009 to collaborate with writer Wendy
Steiner on The Loathly Lady, an animated opera performed at the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium, and featuring Kindness’ original artwork.

 

Project Supporters

 

The Labor Monument: Philadelphia’s Tribute to the American Worker has been commissioned as part of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s program New•Land•Marks: public art, community, and the meaning of place,
and upon completion it will be donated to the City of Philadelphia. The
project was made possible through the generous support of the Fairmount
Park Art Association, William Penn Foundation, Claneil Foundation,
Samuel S. Fels Fund, Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition,
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Service
Employees International Union (SEIU), International Association of
Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers, American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME),
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT-PATCH), Sheet
Metal Workers International Association, United Food and Commercial
Workers (UFCW), USW in honor of Tony Mazzocchi, Oil, Chemical and Atomic
Workers Local 8-149.

The Labor Monument: Philadelphia's Tribute to the American Worker