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TCNJ’s spring art exhibit inspires us to look at water differently

Be honest — how often do you think about the water that pours from your faucet? It’s a resource that is often taken for granted.

But in TCNJ Art Gallery’s spring 2019 exhibit, Springs Eternal: Art, Water, Change, artists use sculpture, mixed media, graphic art, and illustrations to challenge us to consider about how we use, preserve, and enjoy our water — and our planet.

To complement the exhibit, TCNJ students and faculty collaborated on a series of interdisciplinary projects that use music and art as starting points for important — though sometimes difficult and divisive — conversations about the environment.

“If you put a group in a room and say ‘Hey, everyone, let’s talk about race and class!’ you’ll get crickets,” says Colleen Sears, assistant professor of music. “But if you say ‘Listen to this piece of music. What do you think the composer is trying to say and how does it relate to your personal experience?’ then suddenly the art itself opens up the pathways to dialogue about these issues.”

Teresa Nakra, associate professor of music and interactive multimedia, facilitated some of the musical in-roads in her four-week mini-course, Sound Springs Eternal, in which students used professional recording software and digital audio editing and musical composition techniques to design soundscapes influenced by each piece of artwork in the exhibit.

“This project made me realize that water is not something to be taken for granted,” says Shrish Jawadiwar, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and music. “Water is such a prevalent idea in art and music, from Monet’s Water Lilies to Debussy’s La Mer — water is everywhere.”

Jawadiwar’s soundscape — a mash-up of classical and video game music — was inspired by the Water Bar, an interactive art piece that allowed participants to taste local water samples. “Water-tenders” served up samples of tap water from Trenton, Philadelphia, and Horsham, Pennsylvania and asked participants to engage in a blind taste test — and create a social space where people can talk about water.

The audio files are accessible to visitors in the gallery via scannable QR codes (or you can get a taste by listening online).

Whether it means designing an intricate piece of music like Jawadiwar’s or sharing thoughts over a glass of Trenton tap water, the exhibit’s intent is to start conversations.

“You hear about Flint, Michigan, but there are issues with lead in the water in Trenton. That warrants attention.” says Sears. “Every person has the potential to make a small change,” she says.

Visit the Springs Eternal exhibit at TCNJ Art Gallery through March 31, 2019.

— Sarah Voorhees ’20