Invisible Labors

29 3Arts supporters
$6,347 raised of $4,400 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on April 14, 2022
    • 144% contributed

To honor the little-known contributions of Chicago’s early women agricultural and cultural workers, I am collaborating on a new publication entitled Invisible Labors, inspired by a recent research and garden project in the Morgan Park and Beverly neighborhoods formerly known as The Ridge. This book will weave together historical archives, photographs, and original new artwork that creatively interprets the crucial role that women have played in working and stewarding land in our city. 

About This Project

Invisible Labors began as a project for the 2021 Terrain Biennial at boundary, a visual arts exhibition space that I curate. I love working with artists who envision different uses for this space, both outdoors and indoors. For the Biennial, I invited Melissa Potter to propose an idea for a garden project as she has done in other greenspaces in Chicago. She and I planted a garden that includes natural carbon remediators and pollinators such as milkweed, native seedlings, and rare native seeds, as well as plants whose fibers are suitable for use in hand-made, plant-based papermaking. 

After conversations with Potter and others involved with the history of The Ridge, I became interested in how land in the south Chicagoland area had been used prior to industrialization. Through this dialogue I discovered  the rich, intermingled history of female land-keepers and stewards including Potawatomi women, gardeners and farmers, artists, and progressive educators who lived in The Ridge area. The more we talked, the more we became inspired to develop an artist publication devoted to this subject. 

The fascinating  and mostly under-discovered histories of these women and the manner in which land-keeping influenced their work are essential to the narrative of this publication; from the Potawatomi basket weavers who harvested the bark from Black Ash trees to create unique and soulful baskets, to the work of Louise Barwick, Kate Starr Kellogg, and Alice D. Kellogg, who were artists, farmers, and progressive educators in The Ridge area. For our collaboration, the title Invisible Labors has also come to signify the actual invisible labor and contributions that these women, along with many others, made to The Ridge area in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

In addition to curating this project, I am designing the publication which will include archival photos, original artwork, including a fold-out “family tree” showing connections between the Potawatomi women, Barwick, and the Kellogg sisters to other Ridge women. This will be a limited-edition artist publication, with care and attention paid to creating a unique visual experience that mirrors the Invisible Labors garden design. We are hoping to have this publication ready by mid-summer. 

Your contributions will allow me to pay collaborators, work with a designer, and print this publication with a superior level of artistry and craft. Thank you for your consideration and interest in supporting this project.

Project collaborator:

Melissa Hilliard Potter is a feminist interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator. Potter is an Associate Professor at Columbia College Chicago and collaborates with artists in the medium of hand papermaking. Potter conceived and co-created the Invisible Labors garden for the Terrain Biennial 2021.

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $25
    Personal shout out of gratitude on social media ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Above, plus your name acknowledged in the publication ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    A seed packet with artwork by Melissa Potter and filled with milkweed seeds from the Invisible Garden at boundary, plus your name acknowledged in the publication ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $250
    Private viewing of archival material related to the project, guided by the Invisible Labors creative team, plus the seed packet and your name acknowledged in the publication ($175.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    An original watercolor painting by Susannah Papish, plus the seed packet and your name acknowledged in the publication ($275.00 is tax deductible.)

Susannah Papish

Make a Wave Artist

Susannah Papish is a Chicago-based artist and curator who earned a MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2002) and a BA in Art History from the University of Illinois at Chicago (1995). …

View Susannah Papish's profile
  • Update 1: We have reached our match goal!
    Posted on April 01, 2022


    Invisible Labors garden, boundary, Summer 2021

    So many thanks to all who have donated to our campaign!  Your donations have allowed us to reach our 3Arts match.  So we are just 1/3 away from meeting our $4400 goal!  My Invisible Labors team and I are so very grateful for your generosity and interest in our project.  Because this is a female-centered project, I was especially happy that we have been able to raise funds for this project mostly during Women's History Month.  Women's involvement in The Ridge area has been such a vital component to creating community and creative life here.  I am proud to continue this tradition with my collaborators to whom I am infinitely grateful.  Stay tuned for updates about our crowdfunding and of course, our upcoming publication!




    Update 2: Invisible Labors book launch at Jane Addams Hull House Museum
    Posted on November 29, 2022


    Hello Invisible Labors supporters!

    December 10th is Jane Addams Day. In 1931, Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In December, Hull-House observes Jane Addams Day as a celebration of Addams’ lifelong commitment to peace and justice.

    In honor of Jane Addams Day, please join us at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum for the book launch of Invisible Labors: Reviving Histories of Women’s Land Work in the Blue Island Ridge Communities, Chicago, Illinois. Melissa Potter and I will be in dialogue with printer Jacob Lindgren of Inga Books and Tom McCormick of Thomas McCormick Gallery about the project from the genesis of the garden design to the development of the artist book. The conversation will also feature a video interview with designer Tamara Becerra Valdez.

    Thursday, December 8, 2022
    5 - 8pm
    Hull House
    800 S. Halsted
    Chicago, IL 60607

    I hope you can join us!  You may RSVP here. 

    Additionally, Hull House will host a book-making event on Sunday, December 11, 2022

    Join Hull-House for a special holiday Family Day celebrating the launch of the artist book Invisible Labors: Reviving Histories of Women's Land Work in the Blue Island Ridge Communities, Chicago, Illinois. Learn to make books with Susannah Papish, co-author of Invisible Labors and founder of boundary. With Hull-House's rich arts and heritage history as a backdrop, groups will make their own books and zines for the holiday season. Guests will also be able to explore the Hull-House Museum throughout the day.

    You may RSVP here for the December 11th Family Day.

    You may contact me directly at with any questions.  I hope to see you or connect with you soon.



    I will be sending seed packets packets out in tandem with the event-or you may collect yours at the event (s).  We have also printed unique posters and notecards that will be available for purchase.

    Copies of Invisible Labors will be available for purchase in January, 2023. Please see details and how to order on boundary website.


    Update 3: Invisible Labors: now available!
    Posted on May 09, 2023


    Hello Invisible Labors supporters!

    In April, we received the final prints for Invisible Labors.  Melissa has been busy collating and binding the editions.  We have 100 editions; 50 with an insert of Melissa's handmade burdock paper.  Enjoy this lovely photo by Tom Van Eynde, who photographed the entire publication.

    With gratitude,


    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • lisa vinebaum

    • Annie Morse

    • Sal Campbell

    • Nancy Burke

    • JB Daniel

    • Catherine Schwalbe

    • Hendricks Jane

    • Nejdet Eden Unluata

    • Elaine Miller

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Miriam Schaer

    • Amy Babinec

    • Pamela Johnson-Howe

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Reni Gower

    • Niki and George Nolin and Kase

    • David Papish

    • Megan Powell

    • Murat Ahmed

    • Shanna Yetman

    • Jayne Hileman

    • Bonnie Rosenblatt

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Jessica Mueller

    • Earl Hokens and Jeanne Koval Hokens

    • Christine Forni

    • Nancy Gildart

    • Jennifer Doll

    • Gina Bernardi

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

  Joyce Logo

 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council