Friday, May 7, 2010

Drinking Water Festival, Keene, NH

More than 300 4th graders visited the Keene Recreation Center yesterday to attend the 2010 New Hampshire Drinking Water Week Festival sponsored by the NH Department of Environmental Services. Art for Water was invited to participate, so I loaded my VW with bottle caps and went to Keene. My plan was to show the kids a picture of my installation, 13,699, explain to them that each bottle cap in the piece represents a person who dies every day because he or she does not have clean water, and then invite them to make mandalas on the floor with bottle caps as a memorial to those who are less fortunate than we are. I had asked for a large floor space, but was told that there would not be enough room for that. So, when I left home yesterday morning, I was hoping that the 2 tables I was allotted would be large enough for some interesting art. As it turned out, the way the room and tables were configured, I actually had quite a bit of floor space. So after rearranging the tables and borrowing a tarp from the kind custodian, we had a decent amount of space on which to work. There were lots of other displays and each group was there for only 25 minutes, so there was not a lot of time to talk, teach, or work, but the kids just dove onto the tarp and started making patterns with the caps and connecting their patterns to each other's. One group would leave and another would take over where they left off. The mandala idea flew out the window because there just was not enough time to explain what a mandala is, so we just made patterns with the bottle caps. In the morning about 250 students came through and filled the tarp to capacity with a pattern that reminded me of paintings by Australian Aboriginal women that I had seen a few years ago. We had to clear the slate for the second group of just under 100. They made a pattern that began as more geometric, but grew into another that appeared to be inspired by Aboriginal art. It seems that the ancestors were speaking yesterday through those 4th graders as they worked together to create a memorial to all of the people who are suffering because they do not have access to clean water.

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