Over the last year, the United Community Center’s Acosta Middle School has partnered with WaterMarks initiative to educate Milwaukee about its unique water systems. A city-wide public art project, “WaterMarks: An Atlas of Water for the City of Milwaukee,” invites community members to explore and better understand their relationships to the water systems and infrastructure that support their lives.
Developed by artist Mary Miss, the project uses art installation to highlight issues related to social, cultural and environmental sustainability and aims to develop an inclusive, urban-scaled future for Milwaukee. Envisioned as a multi-layer framework that can be implemented over time, WaterMarks is coordinated by Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum of Art, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, the Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers and UCC Acosta Middle School.
The intention, according to WaterMarks, “is to develop a dispersed series of projects, designed to engage citizens in varying capacities throughout the city and in their own communities. Initial project interventions will be strategically embedded into the existing water fabric of the city as catalysts to incrementally populate the city with further projects by other artists.
“Furthermore, a series of public programs, citywide initiatives and community events will be developed to further support the creation of a tangible, intimate understanding of and engagement with water.”
One of those events occurred today, in celebration of Earth Day. To draw attention to the environmental care work going on in the community, WaterMarks developed a series of neighborhood walks to engage citizens with artists and scientists about water issues, infrastructure and conservation. Sunday’s walk was led by Paige Peters, environmental engineer and founder of Rapid Radicals Technology.
WaterMarks’ overall objective is to increase water IQ throughout Milwaukee and help create a new public narrative around water, so that citizens recognize water as both a resource and responsibility, vital to life and general well-being across the region.
If you missed the WaterMarks walk, there are still other events and ways to get involved. On Tuesday, May 8, following the series of walks, UCC AMS will host a workshop that creates an opportunity for participants and facilitators to more deeply explore questions raised during the walks about water, the environment and sustainability. UCC AMS students will join to share water stories they collected from family and community members.
And in the fall, the first WaterMarks marker will be installed at UCC AMS’s new building. The marker, developed in collaboration with school staff and teachers, will provide opportunities for students to make real-life classroom connections and explore their neighborhood through the lens of local artists and scientists.