Monday, November 26, 2012

Wash Your Car and Wash Away Thirst

Jesse with his cousin, Daron, in front of the Valiant
When my son, Jesse, was a child, one of the ways that I entertained him was going to the car wash. For a few dollars we could ride through a tunnel of dancing rubber, whirling brushes and extreme water. "A car wash is one of the few places within the civilized world where one can scream one's head off and not alarm others," I instructed him. So as soon as our '64 Valiant lurched into the downpour we would start screaming, then laughing, and not stop until the car was spit out at the end of the tunnel. We would emerge exhilarated and the car would be clean, even though it was beyond it's ability to shine. Jesse would often say, "When I grow up I'm going to buy a car wash," and I never doubted him.

Jesse is now the proud owner of ENVI Auto Care in Portsmouth, NH. Within weeks of his ownership he discovered a Rotary-sponsored program called Wash Away Thirst ( that provides clean drinking water to those in need throughout the world.  ENVI Auto Care is the first car wash in NH to sign up for this innovative program, which means that every car washed at ENVI will provide one day of clean water to one person. Since starting Art for Water, Jesse's heard all about the millions of people who die every year from preventable, water-related diseases because they do not have access to clean water. As a result, he is mindful of water conservation, environmental standards, and global water issues. When he found out about Rotary International's efforts, he jumped at the chance to support a program that alleviates suffering and raises awareness of this critical humanitarian crisis.

If you're in Portsmouth, NH, check out ENVI Auto Care and take part in the Wash Away Thirst program. The next time you go to another car wash, ask the attendant if they belong to Wash Away Thirst. And if they don't, keep asking until they sign up.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New York Aquarium Hit Hard by Sandy

Karsten Moran for The New York Times
The New York Aquarium in Brooklyn will be closed indefinitely because of the severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Throughout the buildup to and the duration of the storm, I kept thinking of the Aquarium and wondering how they would manage to keep all 12,000 fish and marine mammals safe, especially the walruses who stole my heart last summer. Fortunately, the only victims were 150 koi carp who were outside in temporary holding tanks because their exhibit was being renovated. The staff worked tirelessly to ensure that all of the other fish and sea mammals survived the flooding and power outages.

In June, Art for Water was the visiting artist for the Aquarium's first art exhibition – Amaze-ing Water. Christine Badalamenti, Noel Greiner, and I spent 3 days working with hundreds of Aquarium visitors to create Wave of Words for the group art exhibit. We were stationed in the Ocean View room, a magnificent second-floor open-air setting overlooking the beach, the walrus tank, and surrounding the top of the main fish tank. What better place to write about water with the breeze carrying the smell of salt air? We lucked out with perfect weather and an enthusiastic crowd.

I can only wonder what the future might be for the New York Aquarium housed right along the historic coastline of Coney Island. Art for Water had the memorable experience of sharing its message and exploring the significance of the relationship between saltwater and freshwater with the visiting patrons and local community. Now it appears that relationship is ever more tenuous and important to consider as the ocean recedes and locals clean up after Sandy. Will there be a New York Aquarium on the boardwalk at Coney Island? What should the Aquarium do as Climate Change threatens to bring the tides even further ashore? We are grateful that Art for Water could participate in the first art exhibition at the New York Aquarium on the boardwalk of Coney Island, hopefully it will not be the last.

Click on the link above to see how you can help the New York Aquarium.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

From Paper to Rubber: Stream of Conscience Goes Outdoors at Montshire Museum of Science

Typically Stream of Conscience is made out of paper, lots of it. But when David Goudy, Director of Montshire Museum of Science, asked me if an outdoor version would be possible, I said, "Sure!" without knowing how it could be done. My first idea was to re-purpose plastic detergent bottles, but the process of collecting, cleaning, and cutting was daunting. Also, the waves that could be cut from the bottles would be small and the colors are brash. Next bright idea was Marmoleum, a flooring product made out of sawdust, linseed oil, and dye. But it wouldn't hold up to the weather. I had difficulty accepting this because the product is beautiful and comes in many colors, but I couldn't get anyone to agree that it was a good idea to use. Finally, after lurking in a flooring store knowing that there had to be something that would work, the attendant brought out solid rubber floor tile samples! They turned out to be easy to cut, thanks to can-do, cabinet-maker Curtis Mead, and come in a range of beautiful colors. And, they are weather-proof. The next challenge was finding markers that would not only hold up to the elements, but also come off so the tiles can be re-used. I had only two tile samples: one navy and one gray. I wrote all over both of them with China Markers that I've had for at least 25 years and put the tiles outside. The writing held up beautifully and the marks rubbed right off.  Bingo!  Not so fast . . .When the new batch of China Markers came in they were nothing like my antique models. Not only were they not as rich and difficult to peel, but also solvent was needed to get them off the tiles. And, each color behaved a little differently. Disappointed with the quality, I sought out other brands and other marker options but found that each color behaved uniquely in all markers tested. After much trial and error, I settled on metallic Sharpies to supplement Berol China Markers (the best brand I could find, but nowhere near as good as my old ones). When I finally got all of the tiles – 22 different colors – each tile color responded uniquely to each marker type and color. Yikes. Thank you, Citra-Solve, the one consistent product in this process.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Bye Bye Broussard, Hello Badalamenti!

Christine Badalamenti, an Environmental Studies Master’s Candidate at Antioch University New England, will be joining Art for Water this summer.  Christine will be picking up where Will Broussard left off, helping with exhibitions, community outreach and social media, proposal writing, and anything Art for Water needs!

Christine grew up on Long Island, New York.  Surrounded by development and small parks, her only connection to wild places was the Atlantic Ocean, and a few summers spent in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania.  Christine went from studying Theater and Photography in high school to English and Philosophy in college.  Always she longed to return to the ocean and the trees.  Now in her second year of Master’s Candidacy she is learning how to communicate her passion for environmental advocacy through all she has learned, and looks forward to gaining a deeper understanding of how Art for Water gracefully accomplishes this task.

Christine will be very busy with Art for Water’s two exciting artist in residencies this summer.   She looks forward to sharing this journey with all of you and hopes everyone will be following along.

Art for Water wishes Will all the best as he has relocated to North Conway, New Hampshire, where he has taken a job as Outreach Coordinator for the Mount Washington Observatory.  He will be providing climate and weather-based educational programs for students both in the White Mountains region and across the US.  He is sad to leave Art for Water, and has promised to return to Harrisville for visits.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Can 9 People Talk for 3 Hours about Water?

Yes they can. Last night in Keene I attended a regional component of a statewide conversation about the future of water in NH sponsored by the Governor's Water Sustainability Commission and facilitated seamlessly by NH Listens, a civic engagement initiative of UNH's Carsey Institute. The objective was to "create the opportunity for NH residents to engage in an informed and productive conversation – we are not pushing a particular agenda or set of solutions, but are seeking to engage many people in order to gather ideas, experiences, and recommendations for the future of our state's water." In addition to Keene, conversations took place in Berlin, Greenland, Manchester, and New London. NH Listens will compile everyone's suggestions and opinions for the Commission and the participants.

Nine people attended Keene's facilitated conversation about 5 important water challenges that the state faces. But first we shared what brought us out on a rainy Tuesday night to talk for 3 hours about water. The answers were heart warming: water should be held in the public trust for the benefit of not only people but also the environment and all creatures; we can't live without it; and water needs to be elevated to a new level of awareness for its necessity and beauty. Sympatico level established right away.

NH's first challenge is the projected increase in population density in the southeastern part of the state and the resulting water needs, as well as stormwater management as forests are converted to developed land with impervious surfaces. The second challenge is the threat imposed by changing precipitation and temperature patterns, and extreme water-related events. The third is our aging and inadequate water infrastructure. (Photo above of burst water main in NYC in September discovered while taking a break from installing Stream of Conscience at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine) The fourth challenge is how to implement management systems for water information in this new era. And last but not least, how to fund resolving the first four challenges and how to raise awareness publicly and politically so that funding is palatable.

Lots of constructive ideas were discussed from reducing the amount of water that can be commercially pumped without a permit (currently about 57,000 gallons a day!) to establishing a school curriculum for all grades that fosters water awareness. There could be an opportunity to rethink how water is used as we upgrade our aging infrastructure to incorporate gray water for toilet flushing and lawn watering. Everyone acknowledged that water knows no boundaries, so it would be helpful to approach these solutions in terms of watersheds rather than municipalities or even states. Another idea is to establish a Clean Land Act to complement the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, which would further protect the environment when land is developed.

Three hours of genuine concern, thoughtful ideas, and constructive problem-solving. Kudos to Governor Lynch for establishing the Water Sustainability Commission and to the Commission for reaching out to the public for input, feedback, and ideas. It is wise to be having conversations now while the issues are still manageable. For the past 5 years, Art for Water's primary message is that it's time to start thinking about water. Way to go, New Hampshire, for joining the conversation! I'm hopeful that we can keep it going.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Art for Water in Marlboro, VT

by Will Broussard

On Tuesday, April 3rd, Christine and I traveled to Marlboro, Vermont to work with students and teachers at Marlboro Elementary School (MES). We introduced Art for Water in a morning meeting with the entire school, held 5 consecutive workshops for combined classes, and finished the day by installing Stream of Conscience in the front lobby. The morning meeting and workshops that followed reminded me a lot of our time in Idaho; bringing me back to those moments when the children became place-based educators and I was the naive pupil. This was our first workshop since returning from the west, so it was a real treat to hear what local New England students had to say about water. MES has students ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade, so our workshops also served as crash courses in early childhood development and adaptive teaching styles. That being said, all students were truly bright, engaging and eager to take part in Stream of Conscience. Their teachers and administrators were very interested and supportive of our work, and we even had after-school visitors comment on the installation as we added the finishing touches.

Art for Water's visit to MES coincided with numerous classroom art and writing projects focused on water. The junior high students used it as an opportunity to debate the effectiveness of using art for advocacy in social change. Reflecting on Christine's morning talk, one student wrote "When so many people care about something it creates talk and talk leads to debate" and continued, "when people see the art and they know the public helped make it, they might think the cause is more important." Another student wrote that "this project also made me realize how unfair life could be, and how many people didn't and don't know how few people have access to clean and sanitary water. I now feel inspired to spread this information to the best of my ability." Art for Water is pleased to instill a sense of empathy and public service in the minds of our future leaders.

Tuesday's series of workshops would not have been possible without Carol Berner, Coordinator for River of Words in the Connecticut River Watershed, who invited us to MES. We hope to work with her on future public art projects in southern Vermont and beyond. Many thanks to the supportive teachers and administrators at MES who were all so helpful and happy to be part of this project, the most recent incarnation of Stream of Conscience. A final thank you to the students themselves, for making this day so thought provoking and special.

Friday, March 23, 2012

World Water Day 2012

by Will Broussard

As many of you know, Art for Water promotes awareness for the global water crisis through the creation of public participation art installations. Today, 2.6 billion people live without basic sanitation, and 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water. Fortunately, we are not alone in spreading the facts. Yesterday was the United Nation's World Water Day, a day of education and festivities focused on the global water crisis. Every year the UN chooses a theme for the special day, with this year being "Water and Food Security."

Italian roast to keep me going at 2pm
Right now, we share the planet with 7 billion people. By 2050 that number is expected to rise to 9 billion. An increasing demand for a decreasing resource highlights the importance of educating ourselves in how much water we use so that we may become better stewards of this resource in the future. Did you know that most of the water we ingest on a daily basis comes to us in the form of the foods we eat? Our meals, from the cereal we ate for breakfast to the hamburger we ate for dinner all require water to grow, ship, and prepare. Agriculture and livestock production are the most water intensive activities. According to, an average of 52 gallons of water are required to grow a single pound of cereal, and 1,018 gallons of water is needed for every pound of bovine meat produced. For a single cup of coffee, 37 gallons of water are necessary to grow the plant that produces the beans that are then roasted and seared with boiling water to be drunk hastily by you and I. Apart from just drinking it to quench our thirst, it is amazing to think about how much water is required to feed our world. As the UN puts it, "it takes one thousand times more water to feed the human population than it does to satisfy its thirst." What a revelation. 

So, knowing now how much water goes into producing the foods we eat, what can we do to curb our water use? In addition to the advice about reusable water bottles and attention to leaky faucets, we can begin chipping away at the global water crisis by thinking about what we eat and where it comes from. We can research what foods are the most water costly, and eat these more sparingly, or eliminate them from our diets completely. We may also want to think about growing some of our own food, or consider supporting a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program, which will reduce the amount of gasoline required to transport the produce from the ground to your stomach. Locally grown food decreases our water footprint and dependence on foreign oil, ultimately increasing our level of domestic food security for future generations. Speaking of food security, the city of Seattle, Washington may be ahead of the curve as it is in the developmental stages of an urban food forest to be built in the center of the city. If the test plots prove successful, the final 7-acre forest will be the "largest urban food forest on public land" in the entire country. Very cool!

As World Water Day wrapped up globally and another unseasonably warm afternoon in Harrisville came to an end, I wanted to leave us with a story of hope. For those of us, including myself, who are prone to pessimism over feelings of insignificance regarding our ability to influence the global water crisis, it is important to be mindful of how individual actions add up. Wendy Pabich, friend of Art for Water, environmental scientist, and creator of the blog Hydrophilia, tells a story of a Pakistani man's New Year's pledge to reduce his ecological footprint. In a landscape desperate for water, he determines that if he alone turns his faucet off while shaving, it saves the country 1,900 gallons of water annually. After doing some quick math he determines that if every clean-shaven man in his country were to do this, it would save 40 billion gallons of water every year, or "enough to grow 70,000 acres of wheat, 24,000 acres of rice." Very simple, very impressive. Small acts will add up, and we should not underestimate our collective power. Our future depends on it.

Happy World Water Day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why Should We Care?

Yesterday was World Water Day and while Art for Water had no official event to honor this day, we spent time reflecting upon our mission and how we can be most effective in raising awareness of the shrinking availability of clean water. One question we are frequently asked by high school students is why should we care, the water crisis has nothing to do with us. . .

This is not an easy question to answer. It's true that our day-to-day conveniences here in New England and most of the country are not immediately affected. Clean water comes out of our faucets every time we turn them on in spite of what is happening in China or Africa. So, why should we care about something that doesn't impact our daily routine?

Water is a human right. And as a human right everyone should be able to use it. But currently over a billion people do not have access to clean water. So just on a humanitarian level, maybe we should care about the millions of people who are dying from preventable diseases every year.

Water connects us to the actions of others. The world's waterways and oceans are being polluted by industry, carbon emissions, agriculture, and lack of basic sanitation for 2.6 billion people. Not that far away from us in Pennsylvania there are people who can no longer drink their tap water because chemicals used in hyrdrolic fracking have seeped into the ground water. In fact, some can light their tap water on fire. Why should we care about this? Maybe because water doesn't stay in one place or in one form–it keeps moving and changing. Water that is carrying Benzine in Pennsylvania can carry it to New York or Ohio or Maryland. The native populations of the Arctic Circle have dangerously high blood levels of flame retardants and PCBs thanks to the Gulf Stream. The fish in the pristine lake in front of my house have mercury in them from coal that is burned in the Midwest to generate electricity.

The world is getting smaller. As the population increases along with the demand for resources, we will have to learn to conserve and to be aware of our consumption habits. Using potable water to flush toilets and water golf courses is becoming obsolete. Some municipalities in drought areas have instituted common sense laws that are having a huge impact on water use. There are so many ways in which to reduce our water footprint. Maybe we should care enough now and start to make changes before there is an emergency.

Water could be a source of conflict. It is estimated that the demand for clean water could exceed the supply by 56% by 2025. That's only 13 years from now. The children who are now in elementary school could be called upon to defend the water rights of a foreign ally. Even in our own country there are heavily populated cities, such as Las Vegas and Atlanta, that are running dangerously low on water as their populations continue to increase. Most likely, their neighbors will be expected to come to the rescue. In our current political climate, can you imagine our congress and senate being able to constructively resolve a water shortage emergency? Maybe we should care now so that we can work to avoid conflict through planning, conservation, and diplomacy.

Water is magic. The water we use every day has been in existence for 4.5 billion years. It is the only element that exists in 3 forms. It is lighter in weight when it's solid than when it's liquid. It follows the path of least resistance. It reflects everything that is true. It smooths stones. Maybe if we took the time to ponder the mystery and beauty, there would be no question about caring.

We can't live without it. Water is not only a human right, it's a necessity. After oxygen, it's the most essential requirement in staying alive. So, perhaps right now our personal water supply is not in jeopardy, but maybe we should care because if it ever is, we won't be able to live.

When I'm confronted by an apathetic teenager, I try to say all of this succinctly with the understanding that my response most likely will have no immediate impact on his lack of concern. But because I care, I relish any opportunity to talk about water–always with hope that springs eternal that someday everyone will care.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reflections on a River of Words

by Will Broussard

Stream of Conscience beginning
to flow into the main gallery space
Last we talked, Christine and I were busy taping and push-pinning almost one thousand written contributions to the walls of the Prichard Art Gallery. It took us 5 straight days of death-defying ladder work, puncture wounds, and paper cuts, but we did it! Uncommon River opened on Wednesday, February 22 featuring the work of Christo, Christine Destrempes, Raymond Ghirardo and Megan Roberts, Philip Govedare, c.s. Thayer, and Jen Torres. Three weeks of tearing paper, speaking in classrooms, conducting workshops, and installing led to Art for Water's big evening, which coincided with the opening of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho.

The creation of public-participatory installation art has many segments, and often takes on a life of its own. At some points the work was monotonous and anti-social, with time ebbing by slowly. Other moments were fleeting and bordered on the frenetic. Preparing the paper for workshops embodied repetitious, mind numbing data collection that was so common in my old life as a lab technician. Facilitating workshops and watching contributions take shape was much more interactive, and involved quick thinking, speaking, and acting. My classroom teaching experiences are limited, so our workshops felt more akin to working with diverse audiences in an environmental education setting. Once we stopped visiting school and civic groups, we engaged the written contributions directly and began an editing and classifying phase that was detail-oriented and reflective. When it was time to pin the paper to the gallery walls, the process transformed into an engineering project and aesthetic puzzle to be solved, with the content of each contribution weighed against the qualities of the paper it was printed on. Length, shape, color, and style of tearing was paramount to this process. Building the install involved an intense regimen of fitting, taping, staring, tearing, pinning, and hammering. The ultimate goal of finding the best piece of paper for the best spot on the wall (keeping in mind that it should also resemble a river!) is an involved activity. But all of those pieces of paper did end up looking like a river, and a powerful one at that because it spoke of the importance of water to all of those who participated.

Working in the skylight
Stream of Conscience in Moscow, Idaho took a lot of work, for sure, but was well worth everyone's great effort. This installation will have a lasting affect on those who continue to visit it and read the river of words for themselves. When participants read their contributions on the gallery walls, they will be reminded of Art for Water's visit and their own feelings about clean water. They might remember their attempt to carry the 5 gallon gerry can around their classroom, along with the images of the containers being carried on the backs of young children in Africa. When they see the memories, poems, and thoughts of hundreds of other local people, they can appreciate how vital clean water is to the entire Palouse region, and understand that everyone needs clean water, no matter where they live. 

Christine working upstairs
Christine and I left Moscow with many lasting friendships and future collaborators. We couldn't have come out in the first place without the invitation of guest curator, Gail Siegel, former director of the Prichard Art Gallery who contacted Christine back in May after seeing Art for Water's work on the web. Roger Rowley, current director of the Prichard Art Gallery made sure we had what we needed whenever we needed it, and it was the hard work of Dona Black, education coordinator for the gallery, who greatly facilitated our getting into the 36 classrooms to work with more than 900 students, teachers, and community members. It was always a treat to be in the presence of Nara Woodland's warm and welcoming smile, and Elizabeth Gibson's fearless leadership was beyond description on our road trip to Missoula. Thanks to Jen Torres for being such a great housemate, and Jeanne Leffingwell for letting us stay in your wonderful art studio/guest house. Final thanks to James Reid, for the music, laughter, and Valentine's Oreos. Until we meet again, Christine and I will miss the Palouse very much, and think of it often!

Partial view of Stream of Conscience at the Prichard Art Gallery

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Words of Wisdom from a 5th Grader

H2O: 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom.

Some places it also has 1 million atoms of gunk.

We are lucky in America to have just plain H2O with some chlorine.

We are willing to go in it. We use it in baths, meals, sports, and swimming.

We use it without thinking. We take it for granted. We share it.

We don’t have to carry it 4 miles in 5 gallon tanks.

We are lucky. We fear it. We use it for energy.

It envelopes our lives. It gives us food.

It’s our first memory, maybe our last.

We cry it. It’s used in religion. We embrace it.

We never tire of drinking it. It is the most abundant element in the universe.
It’s in everything: people, plants, buildings.

People fight, kill, but the problem is in front of them.

We must work together, that’s the only way to preserve us and our planet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Environmental Education Redux

by Will Broussard

Rachel Lyon's seventh graders display their
contributions at Troy J-S High
On Thursday, February 16th, Art for Water visited Rachel Lyon's classroom at Troy Junior-Senior High School in Troy, Idaho, and talked to the entire seventh grade class (all 40 of them). Our visit capped almost 2 full weeks crisscrossing the southern Palouse, conducting workshops aimed at generating awareness of the global water crisis and building written contributions for our Stream of Conscience installation, due to be unveiled tomorrow (Feb. 22) at the Prichard Art Gallery in Moscow, Idaho. The class was respectful of our work and eager to contribute to the project. I was especially impressed with their level of understanding; both in regard to the global water crisis and through their local relationships to clean water. A great majority of these students were children of farmers or regular visitors of parks and natural areas. As my time in Idaho comes to the halfway point and I reflect on my time spent here, I find that I’ve become increasingly aware of the deep connection both students and adults have to the land.

Palouse hills outside Mrs. Lyons' classroom at Troy J-S High School
Conducting workshops with Art for Water has gotten me reacquainted with place-based environmental education. In the past, my experience in this field involved students coming to where I worked and learning the ecology and cultural history of the local landscape. Students typically came from suburban backgrounds or small towns located within an hours' drive of a major metropolitan center. As a naturalist, my job was to educate students about an unfamiliar environment in a very short period of time and hope they gain a sense of ecological awareness. In Idaho, I find myself in an unfamiliar environment myself, speaking in classrooms about water conservation, having no sense of local ecology or cultural history. After spending a couple weeks here I found that a majority of locals either live close to the land or know someone who does. Those that do farm or log have been the best source of environmental education. A surprising role reversal has taken place!

Asking students and adults simple, honest questions about their own backyard inspires a sense of local pride for the rolling hills and river valleys they call home. Everyone on the Palouse knows someone who grows wheat, hay, lentils, or “garbs” (garbanzo beans) for a living, and many know someone with a well. Every student knows instinctively that his or her electricity is generated by the flow of the Clearwater or Snake Rivers. Everyone also knows that Lewiston, Idaho is an inland seaport that guards the confluence of these historic waters. (Situated 30 miles south of Moscow, this important mill town facilitates movement of trade between Canada and international markets via the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean further west.) Natural resources are a large industry in this part of the world; a fact reminiscent of northern New England, but often overlooked. In Idaho, every town is tied to the land in some way, and draws a unique identity from that relationship. Perhaps this is the case back east, but this is hard to say. Many paper mills and family farms have closed their doors in the past 50 years, and young people are becoming less dependent on the local landscape for their sustenance. Those that do remember a time when the land was central to daily life are growing old and passing.

Seventh grader Julianne shows off her written contribution
My time in Idaho has taught me to be thankful that large-scale, working landscapes still exist. Not only is this region vast and beautiful, it is also full of a generation of young people not yet detached from their ecological environment or cultural history. Students easily made connections between their personal water use and the global water crisis because their family's livelihood depends on having unrestricted access to fresh water. As we finish the workshop portion and move into the installation phase of the project, I will keep thinking about what I’ve learned while traveling and speaking in this compelling landscape; a place seemingly caught in a cultural, and environmental, time warp.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our First Week in Moscow

Art for Water's first week in Moscow, Idaho was busy with paper tearing, school visits, a presentation to the Moscow Rotary Club, and typing in selected written contributions for the video portion of the Stream of Conscience installation. We visited three schools in Moscow – the high school and two elementary schools – as well as a junior high/high school in Potlatch, which was about a 40 minute drive through dramatic countryside. The responses from students have been thoughtful and heartfelt and will make this Stream of Conscience installation at the Prichard Art Gallery compelling and poignant.

A big hit in the presentation is the five gallon gas can that we have filled with water for the students to experience the weight of water. They learn that young girls, mostly in Africa, carry five gallons of water between four and eight miles every day for their families and as a result they are not able to go to school. The fact that it's the girls that have to do this usually gets a rise out of the group. Most of the students agree that this chore would not be a welcome one. Although there are always a couple in the crowd (usually in high school) who claim carrying 40 pounds of water eight miles every day would be easy!

We look forward to our school visits this week in Moscow and Troy, as well as  two presentations at the Prichard Gallery on Friday with Terra Graphics, an environmental engineering company.

Thank you to Mohawk Fine Papers for donating all of the beautiful, cover weight paper for this project in Moscow! All of the participants love working on such high-quality paper and relish the process of choosing from all of the exquisite colors. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Art for Water on the Palouse

by Will Broussard

Looking East, North Moscow
The Art for Water team has made it to Moscow, Idaho! On Friday, February 3rd we met an 8:35 am flight out of Boston’s Logan airport and successfully made connecting flights in Chicago and Seattle. The sun had already set when we landed in Spokane, secured our rental car, and pushed south into the jetlagged night for 2 more hours. When we arrived in Moscow, we were delighted to be stationary.

Bob Mahler, Rotary Club President
We are here for 3 weeks as guests of the University of Idaho, where we have been invited to spread the word about Art for Water and gather materials for another installation of Stream of Conscience at the Prichard Art Gallery in downtown Moscow. We will be visiting public and charter schools within the greater Moscow area, along with rotary clubs, university classrooms, and other community organizations interested in our work. As of Wednesday, 200 students and adults have contributed to Stream of Conscience with thoughts, memories, song lyrics, and poems all inspired by the concern for the global water crisis. We will continue to reach out to new groups within the community as the weeks progress.

Moscow Charter School students
Our temporary home away from home is the art studio/guest house of James Reid, classical guitarist and professor of music at the University of Idaho, and his wife, Jeanne Leffingwell, creator of the Million Bead Project. It is a cozy residence located in northeast Moscow, just a minute’s walk from open farm country and the rolling hills that characterize the Palouse Prairie region. Less than a week into our stay we are smitten with the small town atmosphere of Moscow; its friendly people and beautiful landscape. Stay tuned for updates from Idaho as the river of words steadily grows into Stream of Conscience.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Art for Water in New York

Last Sunday, I took the Stream of Conscience project to The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York. Joni Doherty of the New England Center for Civic Life at Franklin Pierce University joined me. Before the event, we attended High Mass, which was moving thanks to a professional choir, a children’s choir, an organist, pageantry, incense, candles, and more. Communion was received by many in a huge circle encompassing the altar. The sermon was about the hazards of allowing knowledge to make us overconfident. Great advice! The Cathedral itself upon entering will stop you in your tracks and elicit a gasp, so to experience this service within such a sacred and monumental space was awe-inspiring. It set the tone for a thoughtful exchange about water issues afterwards in the Cathedral House. Thanks to Catherine Skopic for organizing this event, which included lunch, stimulating conversation, an Art for Water slide presentation, and participants sharing their thoughts and feelings about water on torn pieces of paper, which will be used in future Stream of Conscience installations.

The night before, Joni and I discovered a musical event called RiverProject at the Abrons Art Center on the lower east side. Seeing we were in the city for a Stream of Conscience experience, we agreed this was the ticket for our evening. Composer and musician, Eve Beglarian kayaked down the Mississippi River and created an amazing musical tribute to her experience, the people she encountered, and the river itself. Three other musicians as well as another vocalist joined Eve on stage. This outstanding performance included poetry, lyrics and vocals on multi levels, soundscapes, video, and electronics. The majesty as well as the peaceableness of the Mississippi were evident throughout the evening thanks to Eve’s powerful creative skills and the multiple talents of everyone on stage. Joni and I floated away feeling that it wasn’t chance that led us to RiverProject, but that we were intended to experience another artist’s reverence and response to water.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Putting the Fun in Funding

by Will Broussard and Christine Destrempes
When I describe Art for Water to new acquaintances, I sometimes struggle with how to define the work we do. Our participation-based, monumental installations are generated not just as art but also to foster community while building awareness around the global water crisis. Our work spans disciplines like hydrology, wealth inequality, conservation, poetry and artistic expression. Art for Water cannot be summarized with a quick word or two, and it is for this reason that our projects routinely face funding challenges from traditional foundations. Luckily, there are organizations that understand our plight and are working to support the projects of multidisciplinary artists. Last week, I had the opportunity to attend an interesting and informative panel discussion in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The event was hosted by Artists in Context, an organization “designed to assemble artists and other creative thinkers across disciplines to conceptualize new ways of representing and acting upon the critical issues of our time.” The subject of the panel was Falling through the Cracks: Funding Integrative Socially-Engaged Practice,” a subject of great import for us here at Art for Water. Moderating the discussion was Lisa Gross, founder of the Boston Tree Party and Hybrid Vigor Projects, two Boston-based organizations founded on urban agriculture, cross-discipline collaboration, and public participation art projects. The panelists were diverse and impressive, and included Cuong Hoang, Director of Programs at Mott Philanthropic, Andrew Sempere, Trustee from The Awesome Foundation, and Nerissa Cooney and Alexander Hage, co-founders of Feast Mass. All organizations represented were founded in the greater Boston area.

Cuong offered a glimpse into the realm of traditional foundation funding. But he also is involved in an alternative, volunteer giving circle that funds projects in Boston’s Asian community. Andrew gave us some background on The Awesome Foundation as well as tips for applying. He also showed slides of some awesomely awesome projects they have funded. Alex and Nerissa explained the labor-intensive production of a Feast Mass event: Volunteers cook a homemade dinner with local ingredients for which guests pay on a sliding scale. Project information is posted on the walls and contestants wear paper crowns so that they stand out in the crowd. After dinner, contestants give a brief presentation about their projects and guests vote for their favorite. The winner walks away with cash!

I was struck by the amount of time and energy that is being invested by so many people to help artists and community organizers achieve their goals. The models for these alternative-funding sources are simple, flexible, and non-bureaucratic, which means they’re also fun. They may not be dealing with huge sums of money, but they make up for that in innovation and community building. The way in which they fund concepts is in itself a creative, public-participation project! This truly was an inspiring and energizing evening. Thanks to Artists in Context for hosting such an awesome event!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Experiment


by Will Broussard

My first assignment at Art for Water took place on Sunday. I was to document "The Experiment;" a focus group/pilot project for a new participatory performance piece, Voicing the Common, under development by Christine Destrempes and Joni Doherty. A week prior to the event a prompt was circulated locally among close friends and colleagues, instructing them to spend 10 minutes in close proximity to a source of water of their choosing, be it inside a quiet bathroom, next to a frozen river, or under a torrential rainstorm.

Whether the source was natural or artificial, the project stated that audience members devote the first 5 minutes to silently experiencing their surroundings. Any smells, sounds, tastes or tactile sensations should be noted. The following 5 minutes were then spent documenting the experience in a written, but otherwise open ended fashion. Poetry, a lists of impressions, or simple objective observation were among the suggestions provided. Once this written piece was completed The Experiment was ready for launch.

The event began with guests reading their work aloud, one at a time, while seated in a circle. After the initial go around, the group was instructed to read their work as a whole; simultaneously. The result was a cacophony of sounds that were chaotic at first, but developed a cohesive flow and natural rhythm over time. There was group chanting and group whispering of written work, followed by collective laughter in the face of shared vulnerability. In the end, the audience felt appreciative for the experimental process, and enjoyed a deep conviction that, though very enjoyable, the exercise laid important groundwork for Christine and Joni's future public-participation projects together.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Art for Water Gets Much-Needed Help

Will Broussard, who is working towards a Masters Degree in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England, has joined Art for Water for the spring semester. He will focus on social media and keeping you up to date on all of our projects. You should be hearing from us a lot more often now. The embarrassment of posting about an event that happened four months ago will be a thing of the past!

Will grew up in southern Maine, where he developed an interest in drawing and observing the natural world from a young age. He is excited to join the Art for Water team and combine his growing interest in community-based art projects with a deep passion for environmental stewardship. When not assisting with internship duties, Will can be found searching New England for rare birds, edible fungi, and stimulating conversation.

The fall and early winter at Art for Water were consumed by grant writing to fund all of the ideas we have to raise awareness of the shrinking availability of clean water. As a result, many important tasks, such as keeping you informed, weren't accomplished. But now, with our trusty intern, Art for Water will have a presence via this blog, Facebook, and our newsletter.

We have decided to seek more artist-in-residencies at the college level in addition to pursuing grants to fund our work. Will and I are about to embark on one at the University of Idaho in Moscow in February. And this time, we'll keep you posted!