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 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 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, 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 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, just 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 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. 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?
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  • reidi-4-bar
    3/28/2016 - 04:04 p.m.

    Two Minneapolis artists are going to make a bar that serves water for free. Visitors will get to taste certain waters and compare them to other waters. It is ment to help people that do not have full access to good and clean water. This bar will give anyone water for free at the expense of the owners. I think it is cool that someone is donating there time and money to help out.

  • daytonb-3-bar
    4/01/2016 - 10:48 a.m.

    The artists keep the costs of the water low and free from local funding. The free water bar is more of a campaign to shed light on the flint water crisis.I think this is interesting but I'm wondering who will actually go to this.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    4/04/2016 - 07:30 p.m.

    I didn't think that there would be a bar that only serves city water and some from different communities. Colin Kloecker and his wife, Shanai Matteson had some fundraisers and handed water to people. It became really popular so they decided to make a store. They are preparing to open a storefront Water Bar in northeast Minneapolis. I wonder what people will do in the bar because all they are having is water. Some people who are thirsty might come, take a drink, and leave. All the tips that the waiters receive will go to local charities.
    I think that artists keep their costs low by the fundraisers.

  • laurenh-612-
    4/14/2016 - 09:07 a.m.

    For one thing, the two artists serve all of their water for free. And free is the lowest price you can get. And I think the reason why they're doing this is because they want people to think about their water. Because in other places water is like gold. So, the artists want people to try the water and think about it, and enjoy it. That's why it's free.

  • brianv-ver
    4/15/2016 - 09:24 a.m.

    This is cool. I think I saw something about this a while back last year. I thought, "What? Giving away free water? Where's the business in that?" I quickly blew it off and forgot about it. Now I know that they are just trying to build an awareness to the public on their water sources.

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