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Women and Water Rights

March 29, 2010Joanne RichardsonRiversComments Off on Women and Water Rights

By Guest Blogger Anna Metcalfe

…the role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever the scale chosen by the artist.[1]

We live in a world where we are perpetually being reminded of all of the things around us that leave so much room for improvement. This is oftentimes overwhelming. Where do we begin? How do we move forward? Are science’s statistics the best language to use to convince our world that changes must be made? Are policies made by our politicians the ultimate means for making changes in our society? How do we choose which battles to fight, especially when such basic necessities exist in our world: clean water, healthy food, education?

I teach art at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and one of the first things that I tell my students at the beginning of the semester is that whether or not they knew it when they signed up to take my class, they have actually signed up to learn a new language. I like using this metaphor because while there are some people who use language more affectively than others, we all speak some sort of language, and most likely we use it to communicate with the people around us. I believe that art is one of the many “languages” we use to communicate our thoughts, ideas and emotions, and I believe that everyone is capable of learning that language. Not only that, but it is the sort of language that can garner the attention of hugely diverse audiences and can even say different things to different people – at the same time.

“Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration” is an art show that is up through the 24th of March in the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in the Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota. Focused on Water Rights as a topic, all of the works in the show are made by women and some about women. All works have something to say about water, and though each piece has a different message, meandering through the gallery reveals a microcosm of conversations about our world’s most important resource. Some of the works in the show are thoughtful reminders of our interconnectedness with water, while others insight viewers to action. Still others, like Christine Baeumler’s moveable rain garden model are art works that are “ways of living and models of action within the existing real” (Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics). Artworks such as these not only provide a model for action, but cause real, concrete improvement in the world’s water systems.

“Women and Water Rights: Rivers of Regeneration” is a beautiful example of artists harnessing their language to speak out in the name of social change. It calls each of us to find our voice – in whatever language we speak – and to say something.

For more information about the show and events in coordination with it, please visit:

[1] Nicholas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (France: Les presses du réel, 1998, in English, 2002), 13

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