Connecting Stanford University to the Art of Water and to local advocacy groups.
As part of Cantor Arts Center’s public programming in support of the special exhibition, California: The Art of Water, the museum invited artist and Water Bar & Public Studio co-director Colin Kloecker to help us to activate a version of Water Bar in our Inner Courtyard. The museum hosted Colin as an artist in residence for one week so that we (the museum, students, faculty and our visitors) could learn more about his artistic practice, and for him to learn about water issues in California in order to better present Water Bar in the museum space. The exhibition was devoted to artistic portrayals of California’s most precious—and currently scarce—resource. It presented works by eminent artists including Ansel Adams, Albert Bierstadt, David Hockney, David Maisel, Richard Misrach, and Carleton Watkins, among others, and featured images from a variety of regions around the state, from the Gold Rush to the present. Water Bar was activated in the Inner Courtyard which is directly adjacent to the gallery where the exhibition is on view and provided visitors with an opportunity to engage with the project before and after their gallery experience.
I was very excited about the platform that Water Bar provided to ignite conversations about the importance of water to individuals and communities, and to cultivate the sharing of expertise, experience, and knowledge in an informal learning environment that encourages curiosity, fosters inclusion, and invites an array of professionals, academics, researchers, scientists and museum visitors to contribute their water stories. Perhaps even more importantly to me, as a museum educator, Water Bar was an invitation for museum visitors to slow down, practice mindfulness, and exercise their innate curiosity and willingness to seek out and engage with new and strange experiences – exactly the type of behavior I want to encourage in the museum. Water Bar also provided an opportunity for the museum to engage with a variety of partners on campus and in the Bay Area whose work intersects with the issues presented in the exhibition - from urban planners and engineers, to scientists, researchers, biologists, students and faculty to artists, writers and historians.
What we quickly learned was that Water Bar visitors were eager to communicate and articulate their opinions, ideas and responses to the tap water being served. Many struggled to find the language to describe what they were tasting/smelling/experiencing/seeing, but that process emboldened them to seek out the words and turn to each other for assistance. It was also an exercise that encouraged lively debate over individual taste and experience. Again, this is something that as museum educators we do our best to nurture and advance in the galleries. That personal taste and aesthetics are subjective and that we all bring our background, culture, gender, education, lived-experience and attitudes to the museum when we experience art – or drink tap water together – and that no single interpretation or opinion is the only and authoritative. The Water Bar experience mirrored the gallery experience and gave our visitors permission to voice opinions, share stories, and respond to one another in ways that were revealing, delightful, humorous, and sometimes serious and difficult. And hopefully this slower pace and practice was carried into the galleries as they encountered art that was new, unusual, difficult to describe or understand, or expressed ideas that they were not familiar with or did not share.
—Julie Delliquanti, Director of Education, Cantor Arts Center