Right Side installation
Right side of installation, 16' x 8'.
Left Side installation
Left side of installation, 16' x 8'.
Video displays
Displays of video collage.
Picture with glenda, Jean, Jesse and Maev
Left to right: Jesse Drew, glenda drew, Maev Dunning, Jean Menezes; photo by Ian Lee.

WE ARE ESSENTIAL is a site-specific media arts installation specially crafted for the "Salute to Labor Awards Gala," hosted by the Sacramento Central Labor Council—a consortium of over 100 labor organizations, collectively representing more than 100,000 workers in the Greater Sacramento area. This multifaceted installation was presented at Golden 1 Center, the home stadium of the Sacramento Kings.

A tribute to working people, WE ARE ESSENTIAL highlights the indispensable contributions of workers who played a pivotal role keeping our nation safe and functioning throughout the extended COVID shutdown. Beyond this, it celebrates their ongoing contributions during more normal times. The heart of the installation unfolds through compelling portraits and testimonies representing the narratives of truck drivers, healthcare professionals, restaurant staff, sanitation workers, and others who, despite inherent risks, ensured the continuous flow of essential supplies and services. The immersive experience extends across temporary walls plastered with evocative images and onto the multitude of video screens that line the walkways within the arena, creating a dynamic visual tapestry.

WE ARE ESSENTIAL was created by UC Davis faculty members glenda drew (Design) and Jesse Drew (Cinema and Digital Media), in collaboration with Melissa Chandon (Design) and the international Class Conscious Photographers collective (including photographs by David Bacon, Susana Barron, glenda drew, Jesse Drew, Najib Joe Hakim and Antonio Nava). Installation support was provided by design undergraduate Maev Dunning and design MFA alum Jean Menezes. The artists expressed particular enthusiasm for the opportunity to present their work to this particular Sacramento audience, bridging a gap between those who may not typically engage with art in traditional museum and gallery settings. For these artists, the presentation of their work emphasizes their conviction that public universities have a responsibility to serve the community in ways that extend far beyond the confines of standard arts and culture institutions.