“WATER: Exploring the Significance, Power and Play of Life’s Critical Resource” will be up at the WVU Downtown Campus Library through June 2019. Photo by Brittany Patterson / WVPB
By Brittany Patterson, WV Public Broadcasting
A collaborative art exhibit at
West Virginia University focuses on one of the state’s most abundant resources
-- water. It also celebrates the many women who protect it.
Featuring brightly colored panels covering wide swaths of the downtown campus library’s
walls, “WATER: Exploring the Significance, Power and Play of Life’s Critical Resource”
explores the state’s rivers and wetland ecosystems, celebrates the art and recreation
opportunities afforded by water, and explores challenges and solutions facing the
state’s water resources.
“We wanted to have a full picture of what West Virginia water looks like,” said Megan Kruger, the interpretive curator of WATER, and environmental education and outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Water Research Institute.
Kruger was part of the team that sifted through contributions from more than three-dozen scholars across campus and the wider water community, including restoration and advocacy groups working to preserve the state’s water resources. In addition to showcasing where the state’s water comes from, the exhibit takes on other water-related challenges such as the 2016 flood that impacted southern West Virginia and the pollution challenges posed by acid mine drainage, a remnant of the state’s coal mining legacy.
In addition to using vivid imagery, the exhibit also features tactile elements. For example, the staircase between the first and second floors of the library celebrates water-based recreation in a big way.
Vivid, life-sized photos of rafting and kayaking adorn the walls. In honor of the winter months, a pair of snowboards and numerous ski poles are suspended in the stairwell. The second floor features a full wall of plastic water bottles artfully hung to show the impacts of plastic pollution. Students crafted the message, “Water is life, plastic is not” from bottle labels.
Students also have the option of listening to a soundtrack while interacting with the exhibit.
Kruger said WATER is supposed to be splashy, and the multi-faceted approach to displaying information aims to draw in both students and the public. An estimated 4,000 WVU students pass through the downtown library daily, she said.
“So as soon as they come in the door, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what are those cool panels on the wall,’ and we didn't want it to be something where they had to kind of walk right up to see it, because many people work on the computers in the library,” she said. “So, something where they can kind of view and appreciate from afar, and then if they were more interested, they could walk up and and check it out.”
The WATER exhibit is free and open to the public. It will be up through June 2019.