Water Wars Hit Home

Four months ago, citizens of the 8 member towns that receive their public water from the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), a public, non-profit corporation that supplies water and sewer services in the Hartford, CT area, (where I live), learned that a secret deal had been made between the Niagara Bottling Company and the MDC itself, affecting the future of the public water supply.  The MDC has agreed to provide Niagara Bottling with up to 1.8 MILLION gallons of water a day at rates that are less than what public consumers currently pay and did so without public input. The water purchased from the MDC by Niagara will be bottled in a plant they are currently building in the town of Bloomfield and ultimately sold all over the country at a profit of billions of dollars/year.

When they learned about the MDC’s deal with the Niagara Bottling company, Hartford area residents in two citizen action groups, West Hartford Concerned Citizens and BloomfieldCitizens.org (and later, Save Our Water CT), mounted an enormous effort to protest the proposed water sale. At the heart of the ensuing debates were the fundamental questions, “Who ultimately owns the public’s water supply and who gets to decide how that water is allocated?”

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At a time when water has become a most precious commodity, these are questions that are currently being addressed all over the world. In his April, 2015 article in Time Magazine entitled, “The World Will Soon Be at War Over Water,” James Fergusson identifies 7 locations in Iraq, Turkey, China, The Congo, Afghanistan, India/Pakistan and Israel/Palestine already engaged in serious conflicts over water. On April 25, 2016, just one year later, Sarah Ferris and Peter Sullivan reported in The Hill in an article entitled, “Clean Water Crisis Threatens US,” that “The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence now ranks water scarcity as a major threat to national security alongside terrorism” and that “Hundreds of cities and towns are at risk of sudden and severe shortages, either because water is not safe to drink or because there simply isn’t enough.”

What enraged and motivated the citizens in the Greater Hartford, CT area to protest the sale of such a large volume of its water supply was what Bloomfiled resident Brad Klein, called “the commodification of a resource that has become a profitable industry,” without regard for the needs of the local population in times of drought, which, in an era of climate change, are becoming more and more inevitable. Partnering with other CT environmental groups, Save Our Water CT, worked with State Senator Beth Bye to introduce SB 422, a bill that would place the needs of local residents first in times of water emergencies and would prohibit the sale of local water to other industrial clients at a marked discount.

On Wednesday, April 27, Elena and I joined their effort by installing thousands of pieces of The Wave from 20 previous sites all over the Northeast in the shape of a reservoir on the grounds of the CT State Capitol. Legislators and visitors entering the building were confronted by a brilliant body of ‘Waves’ representing in a powerful and visceral way how we are all connected by our fundamental need for water.

 The 'Reservoir Wave' at the CT State Capitol


The ‘Reservoir Wave’ at the CT State Capitol, April 27, 2016

 The 'Reservoir Wave' at the CT State Capitol


The ‘Reservoir Wave’ at the CT State Capitol, April 27, 2016

 Citizens at the CT State Capitol 'Making a Wave" April 27, 2016


Citizens at the CT State Capitol ‘Making a Wave”
April 27, 2016

 State Senator Beth Bye Speaking to the Crowd at the State Captitol, April 27, 2016


State Senator Beth Bye Speaking to the Crowd at the State Captitol, April 27, 2016

Although it passed in the Senate, SB 422 did not ultimately receive enough support to be voted upon in the House before the end of the session. Paid lobbyists hired by Niagara and by the MDC overpowered the citizen effort. Save Our Water CT is not going away, though. They are determined to come back in 2017 with another bill and stronger ranks. Regardless of the outcome of SB 422, their voices emphasized how important a thoughtful state water plan, currently under development, will be to the security and well-being of CT.

For information on the latest news concerning water in the Greater Hartford, CT area, please visit BloomfieldCitizens.org.

The Wave as Placemaker, #2

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.

 The Wave over the central staircase of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT.


The Wave installed over the central staircase of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT.

 The Wave viewed from the street outside the Children's Department of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT


A second Wave installation in the Children’s Department of the Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT, viewed from the street

 The Wave cascading over the balconies overlooking the main entrance to the New Haven Free Public Library (CT)


The Wave cascading over the balconies overlooking the main entrance to the New Haven Free Public Library (CT)

 Young library patrons engrossed in 'making a wave' at the New Haven Free Public Library


Young library patrons engrossed in ‘making a wave’ at the New Haven Free Public Library

 Proud Library patron with her piece of The Wave. standing in front of display of books on the oceans


Proud library patron with her piece of The Wave. standing in front of a display of books on the oceans and water in the New London Public Library

 "I did it!" Participant in the New London (CT) Public Library Wave installation


“I did it!” Participant in the New London (CT) Public Library Wave installation

Sample Programming

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.”

 A map showing one of the issues involving water in the New Haven, CT community


A map showing one of the issues involving water in the New Haven, CT community

 Community comments on water in the New Haven Public Library


Community comments on water in the New Haven Public Library

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.

 Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of The Connecticut Library Consortium (right) with a wave-making library patron at The New London Public Library


Jennifer Keohane, Executive Director of The Connecticut Library Consortium (right) with a wave-making library patron at The New London Public Library

 

 

 

Some Awesome News

NEWS FLASH!

Elena and I are pleased to announce that The Wave has received a $1000 micro-grant from The Awesome Foundation Connecticut.

What’s the Awesome Foundation and why us?

The Awesome Foundation was established in Boston in 2009, “to conserve, sustain and support a worldwide system of awesomeness.” They are a network of independent chapters devoted to funding projects that affect positive change in local communities. Ten or so ‘trustees’ in each chapter pool together enough of their own money to distribute $1000 each month with no strings attached and with no ownership of the projects they support.  According to a trustee of the national chapter, an Awesome award is “a micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance.”

We applied for an Awesome Foundation Connecticut grant to provide funding for a Wave installation at a site in Connecticut that cannot afford the cost of materials but had expressed great interest in hosting the project.  Stay tuned for an announcement of the site that we select.

 Wave Participants at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, 2013


Wave Participants at the National Aquarium, Baltimore, MD, 2013

 

World Oceans Day: June 8, 2013

World Oceans Day: What’s That?

World Oceans Day is a day set aside each year on June 8 to celebrate the world’s five oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, Southern or Antarctic) for their inherent value as well as for the seafood they provide, the marine life they nurture and the international trade routes they contain in order to move products around the globe.

Besides being a day of celebration, World Oceans Day also calls attention to the critical challenges we face relating to our oceans: world-wide pollution and over-consumption of fish that has resulted in threatening reductions of most fish species. It is a day to sponsor and/or attend one of over 600 events scheduled in over 55 countries all over the world with the goal of taking action by participating in efforts to clean-up shorelines, organizing conferences to disseminate information and inspiring individuals of all ages to focus on the preservation of the marine environment.

Here’s an excerpt of a message from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on the first World Oceans Day in 2009:

Indeed, human activities are taking a terrible toll on the world’s oceans and seas. Vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals, and important fisheries are being damaged by over-exploitationillegal, unreported and unregulated fishingdestructive fishing practicesinvasive alien species and marine pollution, especially from land-based sources. Increased sea temperaturessea-level rise and ocean acidification caused by climate change pose a further threat to marine life, coastal and island communities and national economies.

World Oceans Day is sponsored by The Ocean Project and the World Ocean Network. The World Oceans Day website, listed above, contains a list of the participating sites, suggested resources and educational materials.

The Wave at The National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD for World Oceans Day

We are thrilled to be installing The Wave as part of World Oceans Day at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium is expecting up to 10,000 visitors during the June 8 and June 9 weekend, many of whom will participate in World Oceans Day by making a piece of The Wave.

 

 

Annals of The Wave, #2

The Wave Installation at the New Britain Museum of American Art

Over the course of two days on May 9th and 10th, Elena and I, with the assistance of Collections Manager, John Urgo, and his crew, installed The Wave at a height of approximately 20 feet and spanning about 150 feet from front to back between the two main buildings of The New Britain Museum of American Art.

Highly visible from the entrance of the Museum, from all of the windows of both the Chase and the administrative buildings, from the café and its adjoining patio/sculpture garden and from Walnut Hill Park that is adjacent to the Museum, The Wave hangs in a series of 6 long, undulating strands. When the wind blows, the installation emits a loud, crashing roar like the sound of an incoming wave as it hits the shore. It has already been reported that visitors all the way across the park can hear The Wave rumbling in the distance.

On June 2, 2013, The Museum is holding a family day ‘wave-making’ event.  Wave pieces made that day will be added to the installation as a ‘waterfall’ cascading from the roof of the administrative building to the patio below.  As promised in my previous post, Annals of The Wave, #1, here are some ‘after’ shots of The Wave at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

 View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1, Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #2, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


View of The Wave from the front of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #2, Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 View of The Wave over the patio of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


View of The Wave Over the Patio of The New Britain Museum of American Art, #1. Notice the Reflection of The Wave on the Windows of the Cafe on the Right and the Shadows of The Wave on the Patio. Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 Detail of The Wave Over the Front of the New Britain Museum of American Art With Reflection in the Windows. Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Detail of The Wave Over the Front of the New Britain Museum of American Art With Reflection in the Windows. Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 Detail of The Wave at The New Britain Museum of American Art, Courtesy of Elena Kalman


Detail of The Wave at The New Britain Museum of American Art, Courtesy of Elena Kalman

 

 

 

Annals of The Wave, #1

Why Annals of The Wave?

Many people over the last year and a half have asked us how we go about selecting the location for The Wave at a specific site and how we design and install the site-specific installation.  So, in response to these questions, I’ll be devoting a post or two, periodically, to that process and calling it, ‘Annals of The Wave.’

The Wave at the New Britain Museum of American Art: May 11, 2013 – August, 2013

On a very cold and gray February day, Elena and I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) in New Britain, CT to determine where and how we would install The Wave. We had just received word that The Wave was a ‘go’ and our goal on that day was to decide, along with the Museum staff, what was the most appropriate space for it.  All of us had previously agreed that an outdoor setting in May would be ideal for several reasons: (1) The Wave will greatly enhance the outdoor experience of the Museum and can remain in place through the end of the summer; and (2) 600 pieces of The Wave in the installation at the NBMAA were created by New Britain’s Gaffney Elementary School students, teachers, staff and parents and will be up when New Britain students and parents attend the Museums’ annual student art exhibition in June.

Elena and I had originally thought that we’d create a multi-colored ‘waterfall’ cascading off the facade of one wall adjacent to the Museum’s patio and sculpture garden that would ultimately spill onto the nearby grass and dissipate into a ‘pool.’ Learning that day that none of the walls would be appropriate since The Wave there would either block an important sidewalk egress or compete with sculptures already in place, we came up with an even more exciting plan: to construct an enormous, undulating ‘wave’ over the patio itself, using a fan-shaped wire framework connected from the rooftops of the two Museum buildings.  Adding to the appeal of this design is the fact that the patio is used during the spring, summer and fall as an outdoor cafe′ and The Wave would serve as a ‘canopy’ over the entire space.

The three photos below show two versions of the Museum’s patio in February as viewed from several directions and one image of the wire framework suspended by the Museum staff that we will use when we install The Wave later this week.

 Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, February, 2013


Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, February, 2013, #1

 Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, February, 2013, #2


Patio of New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT, February, 2013, #2

 Wire Structure for The Wave, Suspended Over NBMAA Patio, April, 2013, Courtesy of Kathryn Matsuzaki


Wire Structure for The Wave, Suspended Over NBMAA Patio, New Britain, CT, April, 2013, Courtesy of Kathryn Matsuzaki

Stay tuned for ‘after’ photos showing the space with The Wave installed.