Community Conversations on Water in Connecticut Libraries
As recipients of a $10,000 2014 Arts Catalyze Placemaking Grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development, and in partnership with The Connecticut Library Consortium, Elena and I have been conducting installations of The Wave in a series of Connecticut libraries. The installations serve as a catalyst for the establishment of ‘Community Engagement Hubs’ in the libraries, or centers for on-going community dialogue, and will remain for several months as visual documentation of the project and as a visual reminder of the shared community responsibility for local, regional, national and international water resources. (See the December 13, 2013 blog post for more information on the grant, it’s goals and the definition of placemaking)
Wave installations are currently hanging in the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, The New London (CT) Public Library and the New Haven (CT) Free Public Library. The fourth and final installation will take place on June 19, 2014 at the Willimantic (CT) Public Library. In addition to the excitement and fun of making pieces of The Wave and celebrating as The Wave is hung in their own library, patrons have engaged in meaningful conversations and participated in additional programs about water including lectures, children’s story hours and the opportunity to interact with leaders from community organizations working to protect local waterways.
As part of the The Wave installation at the New Haven Free Public Library, Carol Brown, Manager of Programming, developed a series of questions on water for patrons and posted them at the main entrance to the library. As visitors continue to add their comments to the questions on note cards, they take into consideration what has been written previously and contribute their own thoughts. Samples of the questions and community responses include:
How does water make you happy?
“The sound of waves is so soothing. I think it reminds us of being in the womb.” “The sound of running water calms my soul. Cool water quenches my thirst.” “It is something cold on a hot summer day. We are mostly made of water.” “A hot bath every night!” “I love all kinds of water. It’s most beautiful in the sun.” “Using water to cook our food.” “A wet dog.”
What are your thoughts about water?
“Water is an amazing force, so strong that we can’t understand.” “Water is life. Don’t spoil it.” “Water is splendid.” “People pollute is a lot.” “People should not waste it. They should use it wisely.”
What can you do today to use less water?
“Don’t wash your car!” “You do not have to buy water. You should use sink water.” “Flush less.” “Don’t meditate in the shower.” “Don’t leave water running when you brush your teeth.”
Ode to Jennifer Keohane and Libraries
Elena and I would like to thank Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of the Connecticut Library Consortium, for her enthusiasm and endorsement of The Wave and her creativity in using it as a catalyst for building community in library settings. Many thanks also to Leah Farrell, her able assistant, and to all the staff members, volunteers and hundreds of patrons of the participating libraries who made the project so successful. We remain impressed by everything that libraries do to educate, enrich, inform and entertain the residents of our cities and towns.