Essential Workers: A Self-Portrait with P.S. 64

[left] Alica Grullon, “April 28, 2020: As Amazon, Walmart, and Others Profit Amid Coronavirus Crisis, Their Essential Workers Plan Unprecedented Strike-”, 2020. Archival Digital Print. From March to June: At Home with Essential Workers, Bronx Museum. [right] Miranda Guzman, Essential Workers: A Self Portrait, 2021.

“In this body of work, I simultaneously document my time at home and current affairs affecting the nation during quarantine. As performances, they are sites of mapping, engaging in participatory approaches of record-keeping with my body.”

– Alicia Grullón

In spring 2021, New York-based artist Alicia Grullón led a workshop, Essential Workers: A Self Portrait, collaborating with students from P.S. 64 Robert Simon School. The workshop introduced students to the practice of creating self-portraits as a means to express and document real-life experiences. Re-staging images from Grullon’s series From March to June: At Home with Essential Workers (2020) exhibited at the Bronx Museum of the Arts from July 2020 through November 2020, students reflected on the importance of essential workers’ roles and contributions to our communities. The collection of portraits was turned into a series of postcards that students could use to send notes of gratitude to those individuals (friends, teachers, family members, and so many more!) who have improved and brightened their sense of community during this challenging time.  

Alicia Grullón is from and based in New York City. Grullón creates work that transforms how community and history are experienced. She uses true narratives and situations where power relations or identity are in question. Grullon is interested in exploring encounters between people and how they are locations where issues of race, class, gender, and activism open.

What her role is as artist in the community and how art can actively serve community are questions she reconsiders when developing projects. Inspired by citizen action movements, her response to current events or social issues comes from an impulse to use art as chronicle and witness. Grullon pays particular attention to the intersections of photography, video and performance and how the work borders between reality and theatricality, the staged and the documented. She has exhibited at El Museo del Barrio, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Socrates Sculpture Park, Marccone and BRIC Galleries. She’s participated in Performa 11, Art in Odd Places, and in the Artists Files with A Blade of Grass Foundation. Her work has been funded by Franklin Furnace Archives, The Puffin Foundation, Department of Cultural Affairs, Bronx Council of the Arts, and the Crompton Foundation. Residencies include: Bronx Museum, Korea Arts Council, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and Migrating Academies in Kassel, Germany.

Presented as a part of AAI x District 1, a digital workshop series offered by Artists Alliance Inc (AAI) in collaboration with District 1’s Lower East Side public schools. Designed and led by guest artists, students worked over Zoom on pre-designed projects that both paralleled the school’s current curriculum and extend from the individual artist’s existing practice. The workshops urge students to experience art-making through unexpected visual relationships, using professional artists’ practices as a means to create engaging and interactive learning activities.

Commissioned by Artists Alliance Inc. Presented in partnership with the District 1 City Seekers program. Project support provided by Delancey Street Associates/Essex Crossing and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.