Photography in the field

Kristen Russo

Canton Museum of Art to debut KSU employees’ book on migrant workers

Migrant workers have been the topic of heavy debate in recent months, but two Kent State employees are adding a different perspective to the issue.

Gary Harwood, Kent State photography coordinator, and David Hassler, Wick Poetry program and outreach director, will be debuting their book, Growing Season: The Life of a Migrant Community, at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Canton Museum of Art.

“The book educates people about the lives behind the policy decisions and statistics,” Hassler said. “But the aim is not to put forward a dialogue on that level, but to open a new dialogue that gives voice to (the migrant workers’) lives and an intimate portrait of who they are as a people.”

The book, which was published by the Kent State University Press, chronicles the lives of Hartville migrant workers through photographs and stories.

“It started as pictures in the fields, but really what I wanted to be was more involved in their lives,” Harwood said.

Getting involved was a slow process – it took about a year for him gain access to family events because the workers didn’t trust him at first, he said.

Harwood said the pictures weren’t taken with fancy equipment, and they truly represent what he saw.

“They are simple photos, but intimate photos,” he said. “They are about life.”

Hassler, who wrote Growing Season, said he became interested in the project after seeing Harwood’s pictures. Harwood said he didn’t have a writer for his project, so Hassler volunteered.

When he finished, Harwood took the story back to the migrant workers to be sure he used their voices in the story and not his own.

“It’s an intimate portrait of a community that is largely unseen and very often misunderstood,” he said. “The book gives them a face and a name – it’s an opportunity to bridge some gaps between cultures.”

Robb Hyde, marketing and development manager of the Canton Museum of Art, said it’s been two years since he saw Harwood’s photographs for the first time.

“It’s been a very exciting project for us,” Hyde said. “Having something that is in the community that not very many people know about is a great opportunity for the museum.”

Georgina Soto, a 15-yr-old girl whose family is featured in Growing Season, said she and her family have traveled to Hartville from Mexico for nine seasons.

“It was hard at first because I didn’t know any English, not even a word,” Georgina said. “But it got easier … I really like it here now.”

Hyde said the Canton Museum of Art will host an exhibit tomorrow night to coincide with the book debut, which will run from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

There will be a preview exhibit at 6 p.m. today at the museum. Harwood said the preview will be a fundraiser based on reservations at $50 per person.

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Kristen Russo at [email protected].