Artists raise the bar for water
Artists raise the bar for water In this March 16, 2016, photo, Colin Kloecker and his wife, Shanai Matteson, pose with water in growlers and glasses in the building where they are preparing to open a storefront Water Bar in northeast Minneapolis, a taproom serving pints of free city water plus limited-edition pours from other communities. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Artists raise the bar for water
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It's a bar that serves nothing but tap water. For free.
The concept, developed by two Minneapolis artists, started as pop-ups across the country, ranging from an event at a North Carolina artists' space to a waterfront fundraiser in Chicago to a four-month run at an art museum in Arkansas.
They've been such a hit that Colin Kloecker and Shanai Matteson are preparing to open a storefront Water Bar in northeast Minneapolis. Their taproom will serve pints of city water plus limited-edition pours from other communities. Visitors will get to taste and compare, but the goal is bigger. They want to connect the public with the scientists, utility employees, environmentalists and activists who will serve as bartenders.
"It's really about opening up a conversation with the idea that 'Water is all we have,' which is our tagline, because that's all we're serving," Matteson said. "And then the conversation goes from there."
The timing is opportune with the widespread attention on the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton making water issues a personal priority for the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
The storefront Water Bar is slated to open to the public in May. The bar won't serve pricey boutique "artisanal water" as has been tried elsewhere, just plain-old tap water. Its funding will come from various sources, such as a neighborhood association and a crowdfunding website, as well as money from ongoing pop-up events. Any tips for the bartenders will go toward supporting allied organizations and providing seed funding for community projects.
"What Water Bar does is let communities and experts come together and talk to each other about, 'What are the issues here? Have you thought about where your water comes from? What are you concerned about when it comes to water?'" said Kate Brauman, lead scientist for the Global Water Initiative at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment.
Brauman worked the bar at a sustainability event on campus last year. It was so popular they ran out of cups.
A 2014 pop-up Water Bar installation at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, was part of a contemporary art exhibition.
"The best art displaces you from your everyday experience and allows you to think creatively and critically about yourself and your place in the world around you. And the Water Bar does that beautifully," said Chad Alligood, one of the museum's curators.
The pop-up events also have connected Kloecker and Matteson, who are married, to other water-minded organizations. The Crystal Bridges event led to an invitation to the Alliance for the Great Lakes' annual Taste of the Great Lakes fundraiser last June. There, they served Chicago city water from Lake Michigan; tap water from Toledo, Ohio, which was coping with a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie; and tap water from Green Bay, Wisconsin, which runs a pipe nearly 30 miles to a cleaner part of Lake Michigan, said Jennifer Caddick, the alliance's engagement director.
In Greensboro, North Carolina, Kloecker recruited city water employees and students from a Cape Fear River Basin program at Guilford College to bartend at a pop-up event in October.
"There were always 15 to 20 people around in front of the Water Bar." said Steve Drew, director of Greensboro's water system.
Some swished the water in their mouths videos from the event show. Some couldn't tell the difference between the samples.
A boy whose chin barely came over the bar tried a couple samples and said, "I think I like the orange one best," referring to a glass jug with a little orange label that meant it came from Reidsville, one of Greensboro's suppliers.
"All right!" replied bartender Mike Borchers, deputy director of Greensboro's water system.

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How do the artists keep their costs low?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • xavierm2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:01 a.m.

    The artists have managed to keep the prices of the water so low and cheep because the water just comes from the tap. I personally don't understand why someone would want to waste their money on something easily accessible from their homes.

  • dalissh2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 10:11 a.m.

    The artists hold fundraisers to keep the water free. There are also lots of other water-centered organizations that support the artist. The artists also only serve tap water, keeping their costs low.

  • jennelw2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 10:19 a.m.

    The artists are able to keep their cost low by receiving funding from companies and organizations. They also receive funding from their various pop-up bars around the country.

  • ysabellem2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:54 p.m.

    Although it may be interesting to taste the differences between the tap waters from different cities, I sure hope it is checked to make sure its all consumable. I believe its a nice and positive way to raise awareness, but is it really necessary? Could the water be better used, such as helping save water for those in dire need? What are other ways to bring awareness?

  • TehyaWhite-Ste
    3/29/2016 - 01:27 p.m.

    Although I think that their goal is great, I don't think enough people will be able to tell the difference between the waters.

  • peterk-lam
    4/19/2016 - 02:35 p.m.

    I think its great that these people are providing water to the city's people for free. I don't know how they would get funded.

  • dawsone1-wal
    4/29/2016 - 12:40 p.m.

    This feels less like a business and more like an attempt at modern artwork.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    7/24/2016 - 12:19 a.m.

    When I first started reading this article, I thought the point was to make people more aware of hydrating themselves. The idea behind the "water bar" is neat, getting people to recognize the state and cleanliness of what they are drinking, but it's hard to image the water bar making a very big impact. It would be cool if they could promote hydration, along with providing water to those people and countries that don't have clean water to drink, while starting conversations about water, at the same time.

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