For seven months this year, the words of Flint-area students poured from copper pipes whenever spigots were turned in an innovative “sound mural” commissioned by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.
Visitors to the museum placed their ears next to faucets to hear digital recordings of the students’ poems, letters, and laments about the Flint Water Crisis: Water/ It’s supposed to be healthy, right?/ Maybe good?/ What about safe?/ I wish I had safe water…
Teacher Jessyca Mathews’ Carman-Ainsworth High School classes collaborated with students from Lansing’s Everett High School on the project involving Chicago-based artist Jan Tichy. “Beyond Streaming: A Sound Mural for Flint” exhibited from January-August at the museum.
One girl wrote about her aunt dying of Legionnaire’s disease. Another wrote an angry letter to Gov. Rick Snyder demanding to know why pipes haven’t been replaced yet. One boy recorded sounds from a plastic water bottle along with his poem.
The students visited each other’s cities, the state Capitol, and the MSU campus during planning for the exhibit. Lansing students created visual art to go with the writings of the Carman-Ainsworth kids, and all of the work was collected in a book.
Mathews and others are trying to bring the exhibit to the Flint Institute of Arts next spring. Beyond that, she hopes to find grant money to send the sound mural traveling the country.
“It was just an amazing experience that I really hope doesn’t go into storage,” Mathews said. “A lot of times with this crisis and other crises like it, it’s in the media, then goes away, and that’s it. One way of keeping attention is thinking of creative ways to keep people focused, like with art.”
To learn more about the exhibit, including photos and videos, visit www.beyondstreaming.org.