In December of 2019, the Sarasota Art Museum opened a permanent photo exhibit called Worker, a black and white portrait series by photographer (and frequent Sarasota Magazine contributor) Barbara Banks that highlights the construction workers involved in the restoration process of the old Sarasota High School building. Worker is part of a larger museum exhibit called The Memory Project, which seeks to preserve the collective memory of the original Sarasota High School site. The building has been transformed into the Sarasota Art Museum, an extension of the Ringling College Museum Campus Complex.
The construction workers featured, some of whom are Sarasota High alumni, often go unnoticed for their dedication and hard work in reconstructing old buildings. Contracted by Willis Smith Construction, they tirelessly welded, painted and piped the building, while keeping its original craftsmanship, which was designed by Tampa architect M. Leo Elliott in 1926.
Banks, also an SHS alum, says she visited the site on random days and times to capture the most candid moments of workers doing their jobs. She also captioned each photo with the worker's first name, adding an even more personal touch to the images.
"Because these shots were taken over many months, an intimate bond was created, and I forged relationships with these workers," says Banks. "They were shocked to discover their portrait would be a permanent part of the museum; their faces lit up. Many verbalized gratitude for being 'seen,' as their jobs often leave them overlooked and invisible. It was an honor to be there."
Worker is one of two exhibitions currently on display at the Sarasota Art Museum. It can be viewed in full on the museum's website.
For more information about the Sarasota Art Museum and upcoming exhibits, click here.