Exhibition opening at Aztec Public Library aims to build consensus on water issues, use
'We Are Water: Connecting Communities' on display through July 21
- The exhibition is specifically designed for Southwestern communities, especially rural, indigenous and Latinx communities in the Four Corners area.
- The show was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
- It was put together by a team of scientists and educators working through the University of Colorado at Boulder.
FARMINGTON — An exhibition focusing on water issues in the Southwest that will travel throughout the Four Corners over the next year makes its first stop this weekend in Aztec.
The "We Are Water: Connecting Communities" exhibition opens Friday, May 6 at the Aztec Public Library, 319 S. Ash St., and remains on display through July 21. The show was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and was put together by a team of scientists and educators working through the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The exhibition is specifically designed for Southwestern communities, especially rural, indigenous and Latinx communities in the Four Corners area, according to program developer Brigitta Rongstad of CU.
"Our goal was to reach out to the smaller communities to facilitate a traveling exhibition," Rongstad said, explaining that shows of this magnitude usually are reserved for museums or universities in densely populated areas.
Organizers of "We Are Water" wanted this exhibition to be readily available to the folks who are dealing with many of the water-related issues covered in the show, and that is why the first location to which it has traveled is Aztec, she said, rather than a site like Albuquerque. Later in the year, the exhibition will travel to Window Rock, Arizona; and then the Pine River Library in Bayfield, Colorado.
Rongstad said water is a contentious and difficult topic to talk about in the Southwest, but organizers of the exhibition hope to expose viewers to diverse and different opinions on the subject. The show offers several opportunities for folks to express their own thoughts on the subject and share them with other people.
The exhibition has four interactive elements, each featuring a different theme. The first element is a story wall where viewers can listen to stories and reflections about water from a range of people, complete with touchscreens and video games.
The second element is an "augmented reality sandbox," in which viewers and create their own landscape. Rongstad said the sandbox features an overhead projector that conveys elevation differences, and those working with the sandbox will be able to "make it rain" so they can see how water affects the landscape.
She said the sandbox is perhaps the highlight of the show.
"I have a background in geology and hydrology," she said. "And I know that kids can learn a lot about a place just by playing with something in their hands. It is so much fun. It is by far my favorite part of the exhibit."
The third element of the show is a modified plinko game that deals with water use and water rights. Viewers will be able to drop balls from the top of the game, changing their path downward to determine where they go. The exercise is intended to mimic the decisions policy users make about whether water will be allocated each year to agriculture, recreation or environmental uses.
The fourth element is a life-size Connect 4 game that features different-color pucks that represent such elements as animals, plants and landscape features and weather events. Participants are encouraged to create a story about how the pucks connect in the landscape.
Several special events are planned to take place in conjunction with the exhibition. Rongstad said a miniature film festival is planned for June 14 in which viewers can watch short videos dealing with water issues in Northern New Mexico. Afterward, they will have the chance to interact with a panel of water specialists that includes scientists, policy makers and community leaders.
A stop-motion storytelling workshop will take place the first week in June that provides children and adults the chance to create stop-motion videos that tell a story about water.
At regular intervals, children also will be able to come into the Aztec Public Library and pick up a take-home kit that features activities related to water and its use.
"There's a board game, there's a chance to grow seeds, all telling about water quality and water use in the region," Rongstad said.
Organizers hope that the people who come to see the exhibition will listen to the perspectives of others when it comes to water and how it is used, perhaps leading to the development of consensus on some of those issues.
"One of the challenges, especially in a region this is so diverse, is trying to find common ground to bring people together," she said. "And one way to do that is through listening. … Hopefully, people can learn to respect and honor the different world views found in the Four Corners. We really, truly believe that by listening to each other, we can broaden our understanding of water in the region. We hope we can bring that to community members."
Rongstad said Angela Watkins, the director of the Aztec Public Library, had been pivotal in the effort to bring "We Are Water" to her library and in generating community excitement about the show.
A special opening event is planned from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 6, Rongstad said. The event will feature a dozen activities that viewers can participate in, including a raffle and a children's treasure hunt.
Call 505-334-7657 or visit azteclibrary.org for more information.
Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.