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 was developed by two Minneapolis artists. It all started as pop-ups across the country. Those ranged from an event at a North Carolina artists' space to a waterfront fundraiser in Chicago. And, there was 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. It will be 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.  In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton is 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. It will offer plain-old tap water. Its funding will come from various sources. Those include 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. She is lead scientist for the Global Water Initiative. It is 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. (It) 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. He is 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. It was held last June. There, they served Chicago city water from Lake Michigan. The servings included tap water from Toledo, Ohio, which was coping with a toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie. And there was 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. They were bartenders 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. 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." He was 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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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How do the artists keep their costs low?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (16)
  • claudias1-ter
    4/12/2016 - 02:36 p.m.

    I hope some day the pop-up Water Bar will move from Michigan to Oklahoma. I may consider working there.

  • sean1116-byo
    4/13/2016 - 08:59 p.m.

    This article was very interesting. I haven't heard about water bars. It seems very interesting and would be cool to go to one of these water bars and sample there water. This is a very unique idea. It gets you engaged with other people with like scientist and other water bar related people. This also connects other communities with other communities. I think water bars are good ideas, but it may become obsolete.

  • sams1-ver
    4/26/2016 - 10:01 a.m.

    I think this is really cool how people are making these new discoveryes

  • william1108-yyca
    4/27/2016 - 10:10 p.m.

    The artists keep their costs low because they are not spending money on making the water better, or packaging and get the water from the tap, which means that it has not been purified, sanitized, or cleaned. As the text stated clearly, "The bar won't serve pricey boutique 'artisanal water' as has been tried elsewhere. It will offer plain-old tap water. Its funding will come from various sources.

  • haydenc-ter
    5/06/2016 - 02:43 p.m.

    I wan tot go to one of these places and try the difference between the water.

  • aliciac-4-bar
    5/12/2016 - 01:15 a.m.

    These artisans must keep their costs low because, not only does the water itself cost very little, but there isn't a large audience for this kind of thing, and demand will only be lower if the prices are too high.

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