Water inspires creativity on campus

Posted at 1:42 PM, Oct 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-04 13:42:46-04

In four spots along the Red Cedar River on the Michigan State University campus, people seem to be floating atop the water.

The compelling illusions are courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, which last week unveiled a series of outdoor, site-specific installations of photographs by artist Gideon Mendel along the riverbanks.

“Drowning World: The Red Cedar River Project” is an extension of Mendel’s exhibition, “Gideon Mendel: Drowning World,” which was recently on view at museum.

For the project, four large-scale versions of Mendel’s photographs from the exhibit were re-printed on durable canvas-like material and installed in four locations along the Red Cedar River. With a steel frame to support the images, they’re meant to engage passersby in meaningful contemplation on the repercussions of climate change.

Mendel has been developing the series for nearly a decade, documenting the global magnitude of climate change through the immediate experiences of individuals, including portraits of flood survivors within the remains of their homes or other submerged landscapes central to their livelihood.

At 7 p.m. Friday, the Broad Museum will host a guided bicycle tour of “Drowning World: The Red Cedar River Project.” Along the way, MSU guides will explain watershed and what’s being done to reduce pollutant runoff in our rivers. In addition, at 1 p.m. Oct. 16, the museum will host a walking tour.

Meanwhile, MSU has issued a challenge to students to design a water fountain of the future that’s innovative in both function and form.

Inspired by 2016 Stockholm Water Prize recipient Joan Rose, undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to form teams to design a water fountain in one of three categories: community fountain, school drinking fountain and emergency response. Three grand prizes will be awarded to student teams – first will garner $15,000; second place, $7,000; and third, $5,000.

“Water fountains serve as a community gathering space, providing access to wholesome water in public spaces,” said Rose, a professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “In the face of increasing concerns over water contaminants, a redesign of the modern drinking fountain can bring people together.

“We know the answers to some of the most important questions – like maintaining clean drinking water in all situations – are right here on this campus. Our students represent the next generation of problem solvers.”

A closer look at the three categories:

Community Fountain: Teams in this category will partner with a community to design a new artistic central fountain that incorporates public drinking water and the needs of that community.

School Drinking Fountain: Students need access to sustainable safe drinking water at school, playgrounds and other public spaces. Teams will design a new drinking fountain concept that provides easy access for students.
Emergency Response: Teams in this category will design a drinking water fountain/delivery system that can easily fill reusable containers, be deployed during emergencies and be used in a variety of conditions and locations such as when electricity is unavailable, public water is unusable or the service area is flooded.
Written proposals are due Dec. 1.

Both projects are in partnership with MSU’s Cultural Engagement Council, the organizing body behind this year’s thematic year of arts and cultural programming, “Water Moves MSU.” The 18-month initiative celebrates cultural and artistic expression inspired by water, including conservation efforts, scientific research and sustainability.

By fostering collaborations and celebrating the work of those in both the arts and sciences, MSU hopes to create better understanding of society’s greatest challenges, to achieve lasting impact and to create a wave of respect and appreciation for life’s most precious resource.