Saturday, February 28, 2015

San Francisco bans plastic water bottles

Last March, San Francisco become the first major U.S> city to ban plastic water bottles. "The American Beverage Association, which includes Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, said in a statement that the ban was “nothing more than a solution in search of a problem. This is a misguided attempt by city supervisors to decrease waste in a city of avid recyclers.”
Read the story here.

Water Symposium at the Mulvane Art Museum

article originally published in the Washburn Review
February 24, 2015
by Anamika Das

The U.S Department of Arts and Culture, a non-governmental organization for artists, helped organize a symposium exhibition, Drift and Drag: Reflections on Water, to explore and discuss water related issues in the state of Kansas on Feb. 20, in the Mulvane art museum.

The event was divided into two halves. The first half focused upon scientific, statistical and political data and information about various water related issues and problems. Information regarding river basins and the distribution and policies related to water in eastern and western Kansas separately were discussed in detail. Also, a small discussion was focused upon funds and financial aid dedicated to water policies and plans in the state. However, the latter part concentrated on the impact of artists and their work on policy making.

The U.S department of Arts and Culture is an organization that helps people gather together and discuss about the integration and role that art can play in building up of policies. Various art forms considered by the organization include poetry, paintings, drawings and stories. “Culture is the most powerful, yet an underused resource in the country,” said one of the members in charge in the event.

The second half of the symposium essentially concentrated on organizing a smaller scale gathering similar in form to larger main galleries. The attendees present in the symposium were divided into groups and were given instructions on composing a poem of three lines. Each member was instructed to contribute to the composition with one memory related to water, one question that arises in the mind relating to water as well as a solution to a water related issue. At the end of the activity, several poems were composed and read out in front of all the attendees present. After the activity, attendees were asked to share their experience.

“As a child, I had an unspoilt and unlimited image of water and as I was composing the poem, I realized how different the grown up images are,” said one of the attendees at the symposium. The symposium was also accompanied by exhibits of various video stills, graphical paintings, movie stills and photographs. As the attendees moved around the room, admiring the stills and photographs, a female dance troop presented a contemporary dance performance with the movements and steps choreographed on sounds of waves, ripples and droplets. The audience, members and event organizers highly praised the performance in particular and the event as a whole.

Sarah, an attendee of the symposium, said, “The dance was the best, followed by everything else being second bests. I hope we have more of such creative symposiums that helps clarify vague existent policies.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Imagining Water

On February 20th as a part of the Drift & Drag symposium, agents from the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture led attendees in a collaborative Imagining about water. Participants gathered in small groups and reflected on three prompts:
  • a memory of water
  • a question in relation to water issues
  • an action or solution that addresses a water related issue
After everyone had a chance to share their thoughts, the groups broke into pairs and created three-line poems inspired by their conversations. Below are those poems.

Water everywhere, water nowhere
Cherish its beauty, cherish its value
Protect it, conserve it
Pay for what it’s worth
Think as you drink

With the red light at night
As the waves crash the shore
We are one with the sea
Our shared Breath; once adored
Unfortunately now – no more 

Wading in the cold fast water at night
Floating on the bay, no land in sight
Images of childhood, water would always be alright 

Power of water, fear of ice
And its absence, parched fields no rain.
Accepting the forces and cycles of nature,
Acting to help sustain them

Fear of abundance and emptiness
Conflict of being seventy percent contained
Thirst of fulfillment 

Traveling by canoe on the river to KC
The murkiness of the water
Reflects the lack of policies 

Water provides life
Water takes life
Water is life 

Memory playing in place
Disconnect rift adrift no feel
Celebrate in spirit, sink or swim 

Tradition of body-meets-water
Demonstrate the wise example
Connection education awareness community 

Admitting failure but not despairing
Water connects us all
Failure to honor the water leads to dune

Thank you to the staff of the Mulvane Art Museum, Marguerite Perret and all of the participant poets.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Welcome to Half Empty

Half Empty is a Washburn University student project in collaboration with artist Dave Loewenstein. It is part of Drift and Drag: Reflections on Water, a larger exhibition and series of events at the Mulvane Art Museum on Washburn's campus. Below is Dave Loewenstein's statement for the project.

Whether it’s satire, protest or celebrating people’s history, artists are uniquely placed and trained to shine a light on systemic inequality, oppression, racism, environmental abuse, war, and many other ways we humans fall short. From Goya to the Guerilla Girls, artists throughout history have employed their skills and strategies in the service of our most pressing political and social issues.

Right here in Topeka in our capital building, the muralist John Steuart Curry painted the brutality of war and the zealots who (although we may sometimes agree with their ends) used savage means to achieve their objectives.  More recently, the beloved Wellsville artist, Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton unabashedly wore her heart and her beliefs on her sleeve in drawings that condemned our moral shortcomings, while celebrating our diversity and compassion and challenging us to embody our right to free speech.

Among other rights we take for granted in the U.S. is the assumed right to clean and plentiful water. Rarely have we considered it as a finite or vulnerable resource, until now. But as the Ogallala aquifer is depleted and our rivers and streams run dry, Kansans from the Governor on down are beginning to take notice. This exhibition creates a new platform for artists to join this crucial and timely conversation.

To understand how central water is to our (and the planet’s) health, economy and culture, I will be leading a group of Washburn students in a public campaign to inform and advocate on issues related to water. We will take a deep dive into the many places where water intersects with and nourishes our lives. We will examine water as a practical resource in Kansas and on the Washburn campus, and as a cultural signifier when used for decoration, leisure and social status.

To prepare for our campaign, we will study the strategies and techniques of political poster makers, muralists, conceptual and performance artists and their counterparts in movements from the Suffragettes to the Occupy Movement. As a part of the exhibition Drift and Drag, our research and design process will be open to the public via a studio space/installation created in the Mulvane Art Museum specifically for this project. Visitors will get to interact with the artists, watch our work unfold (including false starts and failures) and even join with us on special initiatives.

Half Empty broadens the scope of the community-based work I have been engaged in for the last twenty-five years by approaching a very specific subject with a flexible and ephemeral set of media and strategies. It is also a step forward for the university. By offering students a real world application of their art training that serves a social purpose, Washburn is acknowledging the critical role that artists can play in addressing the most complex and critical issues of the day. 

- Dave Loewenstein