Victoria Gannon

Victoria Gannon is a writer and editor living in Oakland. She received her undergraduate degree in English from Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Prior to attending the Visual and Critical Studies program at California College of the Arts (CCA), she lived in Portland, Maine, where she studied nonfiction writing, worked as a journalist, and walked her basset hounds. While a student at CCA, she wrote on subjects as diverse as her cousin’s hair, thrift stores, inheritance, and architecture and, occasionally, about art. She wrote her VCS thesis on the cultural geography of informal day laborer hiring sites in Northern California. In addition to presenting her work at the VCS symposium, she delivered her thesis at the American Association of Geographers’ 2011 annual conference as part of the panel “Spatialities of Race and Class.”

Since graduating from the program in 2008, she has continued to work as a writer and editor. Formerly a reviewer for the KQED Arts and Culture blog, she presently writes a bimonthly column titled Bedfellows: Art and Visual Culture for the Art21 blog and is a senior editor for the Bay Area based online arts journal Art Practical, to which she is also a review and feature contributor. In addition, she has written for the magazine Meatpaper and for Open Space, the blog for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), and attended the 2011 Squaw Valley Community of Writers conference. She currently works as an editorial associate in the publications department of SFMOMA. Writing samples and contact info available at 85wpm.wordpress.com.

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About Victoria Gannon’s Thesis Project

Victoria Gannon

Day Laborer Landscapes: Seeing Informal Hiring Sites

Each day, 40,000 individuals look for work as day laborers in California. More than 100 stand along César Chávez Street in San Francisco, one of the state’s largest informal hiring sites. Built over a creekbed in the late 1800s, the street’s surface is all we see when we drive or walk along it today. In a similar fashion, the sight of the day laborers standing along its sidewalks tells only a partial story. In this presentation I will share, analyze, and connect the stories I have learned about the César Chávez hiring site, creating a narrative that transcends its surface appearance.A conversation between physical setting and social action, the hiring site is its own landscape. It results from two intertwining histories: that of the street and that of the workers. To understand the hiring site is to learn both histories. The street is a border zone, dividing and connecting the city’s various neighborhoods. Widened in the 1940s by city engineers, it is a vehicle-friendly thoroughfare connecting distinct zones. For residents of the historically Latino Mission District, it is a southern border beyond which a cultural and spatial shift occurs.For the day laborers, a predominantly Latino population of men who stand on the street’s corners, the hiring site is a destination. They arrive there after nights spent in crowded San Francisco homeless shelters or in cramped apartments shared with several other men. For many, it is the end of an even longer journey that started in Mexico or Central or South America. The César Chávez hiring site is a unique landscape—one that draws attention to the city’s other social and physical configurations and whose existence points to a larger network of labor that connects locales throughout Latin America with the streets, towns, and cities of the United States. My project focuses on the American landscapes in which informal hiring sites appear, asking what conditions allow these sites to become visible and persist over time. It interweaves stories of landscape with day laborers’ and municipal planners’ perspectives, providing a framework through which to consider these informal, yet enduring, gathering points.

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