Manufacturing | December 27 2013

Exhibit celebrates artists at work

Employees in the automotive field are known for strong math, science and technical skills. However, Chrysler Group wants its employees to tap into their inner artist.

About 600 entries were submitted by UAW-represented and non-bargaining-unit Chrysler employees for the 2013-2014 Artists @ Work Exhibition, the country’s only juried art show sponsored by a major corporation and labor union. The exhibit was established by the UAW and Chrysler Group and is coordinated by the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center (NTC) to provide a unique creative outlet for employees and to reinforce the importance of innovation in the workforce.

“Art and manufacturing have more in common than you might think,” said the UAW’s Keith Mickens, NTC co-director. “The creative process involved in producing a memorable image on a canvas can be used to help build quality vehicles on an assembly line. We’re celebrating both through Artists at Work.”

The exhibit is open to all forms of creativity, ranging from paintings and sculptures to photography, wood turning and blown glass.

A panel of four Detroit-area art professionals chose 92 pieces from 50 artists to be showcased in the exhibit. They awarded “best of show” prizes to three employees and selected 11 employees for honorable recognition.

First place was Joseph Auito (see left), a joint activities representative for UAW Local 412 and a former Warren (Mich.) Truck Assembly Plant employee. Auito is a steampunk artist and describes himself as part inventor, part engineer and part mad scientist.

Steampunk art typically features anachronistic technologies, such as steam-powered or geared machinery and retro-futuristic inventions, as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them. Don’t worry, that confused me, too. Easiest way to picture it is by thinking of Victorian-era science fiction: top hats mixed with gears and mechanical devices.

Pretty cool, eh? Now, back to the art. Auito impressed the judges with his miniature, functioning double Ferris wheel structure, Childhood Anxiety, which he used “found objects” to create. “If I can drill it, weld it, cut it, screw it together, tie it on with bailing wire, paint it or Bondo it, I will use it,” he says. “There is no wasted material in my art world.”

Auito also earned an honorable mention for two necklace pendants he has in the exhibit.

Shannon Jones, an electrician at Mt. Elliot Tool and Die in Detroit, was awarded second place for his acrylic painting of a welder (see right). Even though Jones enjoys drawing, this is the first painting he’s ever done.

Third place went to Shan Haq, a project chief in Body Closures Engineering. His winning entry, Our Hands Do More Than Just Build Cars (see below), is a Photoshop composite photograph that showcases Chrysler Group employees’ dedication to “giving back.” Haq was among many volunteers picking corn on a farm near Richmond, Mich., which was donated to Forgotten Harvest. The food was later distributed to feed the hungry in metro Detroit.

Ten other employees received honorable mentions:

• Sabrina Dao, data architect, Information and Communication Technology Building, Auburn Hills, Mich., photography

• Loel Gnadt, electrician, UAW Local 869, Warren (Mich.) Stamping Plant, wood turning

• Chaka Kpotufe, electrician, UAW Local 685, Kokomo (Ind.) Transmission Plant, pencil drawing

• Mark Lesch, millwright, UAW Local 1268, Belvidere (Ill.) Assembly Plant, pencil drawing

• Clifford Mosier, tinsmith, UAW Local 1264, Sterling Stamping Plant, Sterling Heights, Mich., metal sculpture

• Sherry Richards, product designer, UAW Local 412, Chrysler Technology Center, Conte crayon drawing

• April Shipp, storekeeper, UAW Local 412, Chrysler Technology Center, textile

• Jon Walters, manufacturing mechanical engineer, UAW Local 1302, Indiana Transmission Plant II, pencil drawing

• Clay Warnock, events coordinator, UAW Local 889, Chrysler Technology Center, photography

• Tammie Wilson, human resources assistant, UAW-Chrysler National Training Center, photography

The exhibit is not open to the public, but can be viewed online.