Monday, August 4, 2014

Water, Art and Spirit on Bradford Beach in Milwaukee

Months in the making, We Are Water: Beachfront Celebration of Milwaukee's Water had its debut last night on Bradford Beach. The celebration took many forms, including recitations of poetry and spoken word, a dance performance, and a solemn spiritual ceremony led by members of a local Indian community.

As dusk grew deeper the beach was set aglow. The culminating activity was a participatory temporary art installation created and led by environmental artist Melanie Ariens. The audience was invited to take a clear plastic filled with water illuminated with small LED lights and to place them on the beach in a prearranged pattern that represented the Great Lakes. In the gathering darkness the radiance of the lakes were joined by illuminated words provided by members of the Overpass Light Brigade.

The event was organized by Milwaukee Water Commons, a network of individuals and organizations intended "to foster connection, collaboration and broad community leadership on behalf of our waters" that was inspired by plans to make Milwaukee a “fresh water hub." (The Milwaukee Water Commons is the local chapter of a larger initiative called the Great Lakes Commons.)

There were a wide variety of participants of all ages. I didn't hear an official estimate but it looked to me like over a hundred people. When the ceremony ended with everyone gathered around the glowing Great Lakes in the darkness a local pastor gave a blessing and said, "Go in peace." No one moved; no one, it seemed, wanted the moment to end.

Here is my visual meditation on the event.

I was delighted to be in the company of many talented photographers. To see more images from the event go to the Milwaukee Water Commons Facebook page.


  1. Thanks for posting and sharing. Slowly I think we are waking up to how important water is - look at Toledo. If we're not careful, one of these days there's going to be a major disaster that will not be remedied in a few days.

  2. Yes, Toledo's is certainly a cautionary tale. But Milwaukee had its wake up call over 20 years ago with Criptosporidium!