Atlanta Artist Depicts People of Nature

art, united states, water

A human-nature binary exists today where many organized humans believe they are separate from wild nature. Some argue this perceived division is leading to ruin, and one visual artist is examining such ideas among others. The H20 Art page on the Water for the Ages blog is about to feature a new artist: Karley Sullivan. I’m elated to feature her artwork because we’ve been friends since enigmatic teenage years in our East Tennessee hometown. But I’m even more honored to feature Karley because her artwork is truly transformational. It seems she has little fear in confronting the human-nature binary in her mode of communication, and echos of the water world abound. Please check out the H20 Art page to see more.

Above Photo: Self Portrait by Karley Sullivan

Pittsburgh Water Artist Makes Waves


Art has a way of reaching people through a universal language. The H20 Art page on the Water for the Ages blog is about to feature a new artist: Karen Jean Larson. Karen grew up in Florida, and she has been entranced with the ocean – with water – ever since. She has incorporated water concepts into many of her pieces, and she recently participated in the “Rain Barrels on Parade” project to paint barrels that will be auctioned off to raise money for a non-profit organization. To see her art and read an artist Q&A, please visit the H20 Art page here.

Above Photo: Karen Jean Larson Website.

Water-Art Activism Hits New York City

architecture, art, community, drinking water, international, water availability, water events

It always strikes me how a small but creative idea can spread spurring people around it to see the world in a new way. Or its ability to influence individuals to engage in positive change. Word Above the Street is one such idea.

Mary Jordan wants to “draw attention to Water as a precious resource by transforming 300 rooftop water tanks in New York City into works of art”. These works of art will focus on bringing awareness to water scarcity and water sanctity around the world. Professional artists, emergent artists, and youth have been asked to submit art ideas for the tanks.

Above Photo: Word Above The Street

Positive effects of this art project will be far-reaching. Over 8.4 million NYC residents, 5 million tourists, and millions of virtual visitors will be able to see the exhibition during the summer of 2012. This may be the first time many of these people have thought about water as an important issue, and this project may inspire others to further create positive change. Right on Word Above the Street!

Plastics in the lunchbox. Plastics in the sea.

art, community, oceans, outreach

While eating lunch at work recently, my co-worker pulled out a sandwich wrapped in a colorful sash of woven materials. This wrapper, probably part of a rice sack from a distant place, was washable and reuseable. And – I thought – perfect. Looking into my own lunchbox, plastics abounded. Sure I washed and reused a few plastic bags made from recycled plastic. But was this enough? It turns out, no. The use of plastics leaves many negative effects in our streams, rivers, and seas.

For some time, scientists have known plastics are accumulating in the ocean. A recent study found plastics are floating deeper than previously assumed. Pieces of plastic can extend 20 meters below the sea. One mass near the northwest coast of the United States is about twice the size of Alaska. These particles are ingested by fish, birds, turtles, and other marine wildlife. Often these animals do not survive.

Above Photo: G. Proskurowski, Sea Education Association

Awareness is rising fast and people – myself included – are changing plastic-ey ways. Heal the Bay is working to spread awareness in California, and many creative outreach efforts are happening in Portland. The RiPPLe effect is an annual art gala that showcases creations made of plastics and other trash collected during a river clean-up. This project was started by Jenn Rielly. The International Plastic Quilt Project is promoted by another non-profit to challenge people to live without plastic for one week. Participants collect any plastic encountered and make a quilt piece. The quilt piece becomes part of a traveling exhibit.

All of this talk about plastics and water has certainly made me think. While I might not get around to making the quilt piece, I am going to go sans plastics for a week. Let’s give this a go.

A Perpetuum Jazzile Rainstorm

africa, art, music, video

Hear the sounds of a summer rainstorm – drizzle, then showers come down harder, a torrent complete with thunder and lightning – and as quick as it arrived, the storm dies down. All of these sounds and others a cappella by the vocal group Perpetuum Jazzile from Slovenia as they perform Toto’s Africa. This water-based viral video is lovely. Thanks to EnviroTalk for passing this one along.

Are you ready for a global-water multimedia adventure?

animation, art, community, film, united nations, water availability

Already today, I have been able to visit people and places in Yemen, India, Mexico, Niger, and Kenya to learn more about local and global water issues. How, you may ask? Easy, I reply – The Water Channel.

The Water Channel is a partnership between MetaMeta Communications, UNESCO-IHE, Cap-Net and Nymphaea. It has videos from around the world on water topics ranging from Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) to watershed education and outreach.

The Water Channel Logo

My favorite videos so far include –

Water is a Gift: An artful animation about water produced by the Natural Water Resources Authority in Yemen (complete with English subtitles). This film juxtaposes drawings and digital video to talk about the significance of groundwater and drip irrigation in Yemen.

Tears (Lagrimas): A “fictional” film about a young girl wistful for the days when she was able to access water at a local source. This video has no words, only images, and was shown at fourth World Water Forum in Mexico.

Kenya: What Water Means to Me: One teacher at Karen ‘C’ Primary School in Kenya documents her students’ views on water. These students discuss the role of H20 in their daily lives: water shortages at school, water shortages at home, water-borne illnesses, and possible solutions to these water problems.

If you want to see others, visit the 164 videos (and counting) at The Water Channel website.

Visions of Water, Visions of Life: Jessica Varin

art, community, visions of water, visions of life

This is the first interview for a new series hosted on Water for the Ages called Visions of Water, Visions of Life. This interview series will feature people from around the world interacting with water on multiple scales: technological, cultural, social, political, spiritual, and aesthetic.

For this interview, I am pleased to introduce Jessica Varin. Jessica is a senior at Oregon State University majoring in Natural Resources and Environmental Engineering. We first met during our International Water Resources Management class taught by Dr. Aaron Wolf (best known for his work on global water conflict management). Near the beginning of the quarter, she asked me to contribute to a journal she was putting together to document the different ways that people in our community view water. She asked each contributor to draw, write, paint, or otherwise express their interactions with water. Recently, she presented these journal contributions of over forty-nine adults and children to our class. The results showed that each person – no matter their race, ethnicity, creed, or age – interacted with water in a unique way but there were unifying themes. To me, this project reiterated the beauty and sanctity of water. I would like to share her story with you.

Can you please tell us a little bit about your project?

I asked people in my community a simple, complex question: What does water mean to you? Participants in the project drew, painted, wrote, and explored their answers in a collaborative art journal.

What made you want to start compiling this journal? And what first led to your interest in the field of water?

I’ve been working on personal art journals or sketchbooks for about a year. Through, I started sending collaborative art journals to strangers around the world. I knew that I wanted to do a water-themed journal eventually … the opportunity to get academic credit kick-started this particular project.

I grew up in and around water. Canoing and swimming were a big part of my childhood. In high school, I started doing research work on water quality in a nearby watershed. I had really outstanding mentors and the experience made me passionate about issues surrounding water.

Where did you find your participants? How did people react to being asked to complete a journal page on water?

I passed it around my poetry class, coerced co-workers, and talked to strangers on the street. One of my goals was to get a diversity of perspectives on water.

Reactions to the project were overwhelmingly positive. Some people were overwhelmed by the scope of the topic, others dove right in and started drawing or writing. I had a harder time getting adults to participate. Many adults insisted that they weren’t artists; not one child refused a crayon.

What were some of the overarching themes that you found among the journal contributions?

My goal was to see if there was a cohesive ethic of stewardship with regard to water in my community. Many people associated water with intangibles. Beauty, life, and spiritual connection were among the things that participants found meaning in.

Do you feel that this type of project could influence the future of watershed management?

The creation of policy is often values-driven as much as it is economically-driven. We continue to be bound by right and wrong as well as the bottom line. Several of the participants expressed values in their artwork that water cannot be quantified. These values are often overlooked in traditional cost-benefit analysis. It’s easier to ignore what does not fit into a matrix. To reach the next level, watershed management efforts will need to incorporate these values.

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All photos were taken by Assistant Professor Wang Zhijian from the School of Law at Hohai University in Nanjing, China. He runs a blog on international water law called International Rivers & International Relations. So if you know Chinese, you might check out his blog here. And if you would like to contact Jessica to learn more about this neat project, please e-mail her here.

K2K – In Search of Water

art, climate change, drinking water, drought, floods, groundwater, hydrogeology, india, international, outreach, rivers, sustainability, technology, water availability

One man’s dream will soon raise the world’s awareness about the complexity of water challenges occurring in India. Beginning Saturday April 26th in Bangalore, CS Sharada Prasad will travel 19,000 km (11,807 m) on motorbike to document the meaning and encompassing challenges of water to people in India. Crossing 15 major rivers, 28 states, and 7 territories, Mr. Prasad will document his journey on a blog called “K2K – In Search of Water“. His route will be mapped with a GPS unit attached to his motorbike and uploaded to Google Maps. Geotagged blog posts will be updated everyday and photos from his journey will be available on EveryTrail and Flickr.

The trip will take over two months to complete visiting places such as the Khardung La Pass at 18,380 feet to Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of mainland India. Mr. Prasad will meet with local citizens, organizations, and community leaders to bring light to their accomplishments and challenges regarding sustainable water supplies. This event will be a great opportunity for students, classrooms, and people around the world to follow along with his adventure and become educated about water supplies in India. Sharada Prasad is a project officer for the India Water Portal developed by Arghyam, a non-governmental organization. Arghyam “seeks to support strategic and sustainable efforts in the water sector that address basic water needs for all citizens”.

Visit the cool interactive Google Map of the Journey across India here.