Time to visit the Watch City

Chris Bergeron

As an artist and master electrician, Susan Eisenberg makes electrifying connections between working construction and feminist labor rights.

Visitors won't need hardhats to view her installation, "On Equal Terms," at Brandeis University in Waltham. But they are likely to come away with a deeper appreciation of what it was like being among the first women to break into the building trades at union job sites.

Eisenberg, a Boston resident who writes poetry and has taught theater, said the exhibit celebrates the 30th anniversary of affirmative action legislation that opened up labor unions to women and minorities. Located at the Women's Studies Research Center at 515 South St., Eisenberg's installation finds art, polemic and poetry in the real-life stories of 30 pioneering women who fought for the right to earn a living despite the routine indignities thrown in their way. Step into the "Bathroom Shack," a lifesize reproduction of the ramshackle privies, complete with a door that won't close or lock and obscene graffiti, built only to satisfy laws guaranteeing "equal" treatment.

Or meet "Stella," Eisenberg's lifesize sculpted electrician, wearing her own overalls, her face composed of photos of women laborers and sporting a faux-diamond studded hardhat.

How many installations left you annoyed because a wannabe artist spread leftover projects on the gallery floor? This is different. Eisenberg, who helped wire the Westin Hotel, finds the same elegant utility in power tools that Shakers imbue in their furniture and makes political points with steps ladders and work gloves.

WHERE AND WHEN: "On Equal Terms" opened Oct. 6 at the Women's Studies Research Center at 515 South St. Meet Eisenberg at an Oct. 16 reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit runs through Jan. 9. The center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, or by appointment. For information, call 781-736-8102 or visit

WHERE TO CAFFEINATE: Cafe on the Common is the funky vortex where Waltham's varied tribes gather for rich cappuccino and varied sandwiches, including a tasty panini and nutritious veggie wrap with goat cheese. The crowd ranges from college kids to laptop loners and weary commuters with lots in between. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere with mellow jazz, free wireless and easy parking. Located at 677 Main St., the Cafe needs to stay open after 6 p.m. for the nocturnal crowd.

WHERE TO COGITATE: And find good books cheap. Moody Street is a mecca of bookstores for readers of virtually all tastes. Started by Brandeis grads, Back Pages Books at 289 Moody St. specializes in local authors, literature, poetry and children's books with good discounts on remaindered titles. It offers a free speakers program of local and national authors and monthly Open Mics for budding poets. Just a short walk across the street, More Than Words offers a funky alternative at 376 Moody St. Run by youths in custody of the Department of Social Services, it offers a real hodgepodge of old and new paperbacks, "gently used" and new books. Best deal is the $5 "bundle of books" with five titles.

WHERE TO SALIVATE: Over good food and beer. Since opening in 1996, Watch City Brewing Company has earned awards and a loyal clientele for its great selection of hard-to-find beers like Stout, Titan and Hops Explosion IPA, and traditional American food. Located at 256 Moody St., it earned Boston Magazine's 2008 award for "Best Nightlife West of Boston." Some regulars praise the heaping portions of beer-battered onion rings, jalapeno poppers and the favorite Watch City rollers.

WHERE TO VENTILATE: Showing current hits, foreign films and hard-to-find art movies on six screens, the Embassy Cinema is a throwback to the downtown movie houses of the old days. Located at 16 Pine St., it provides soft seats, big screens and an Espresso bar. Best of all, rather than the "Date Night" hordes, viewers are people who actually like to listen to movies without chatting on their cell phones.

The MetroWest Daily News