Once you’ve become a limerick on “Wait Wait…Don't Tell Me,” the NPR news quiz, you’ve arrived, right?
On the March 12 show
, Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker, who founded the Minneapolis-based social practice arts group Works Progress Studio
, were surprised to hear host Peter Sagal and “judge and scorekeeper” Bill Kurtis source their new project, Water Bar
, as one of the show’s weekly limericks. The surprising national exposure came hot on the heels of a Minnpost article
about the couple’s art and environmental project that went viral, as well as other articles.
Why the explosion of attention? Especially because the Water Bar has already toured to several locations throughout the U.S., including Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas
? “It’s a couple of things,” says Matteson. The Minnpost article “had a headline that was easy to share via social media and it kind of glossed over what we’re really about,” she explains. “But I also think people are really interested in water and it’s a hot topic for a number of reasons,” including climate change, drought and the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“People are remembering how important water is to our lives, communities, the places where we live,” she continues. “I also realized, looking at the articles, that water is an interesting mirror. When people hear about the project they tend to see things in it that we may not see.” The responses generated by the Minnpost article, for example, “became this mirror about anxiety related to economic development in Northeast Minneapolis--some people thought we were creating a boutique retail space selling 'artisanal' water, which is not what we're doing."
When the Water Bar and Public Studio, as the project is officially known, opens on Central Avenue off Lowry in April, it will be a collaborative public art project or an “art and sustainability incubator or hub,” Matteson says. “It’s a space where artists, designers, researchers and organizers can learn about water and how it touches various aspects of our lives and communities, and share work they’re doing.”
The studio may also show films about water, provide tap water testing, and offer space to artists and organizations that want to work through their ideas about art, water, sustainability and community with like minded people. Currently, Water Bar collaborates with the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association
, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, and the Healing Place Collaborative.
But the Water Bar also is a tasting room serving—you guessed it—water. Tap water. “We are not a business, even though we’re playing with the idea of ‘tap rooms’ since there are so many brewery tap rooms in Northeast,” Matteson says. “But we really will only have tap water. It won’t be for sale. It’s free. And we’re doing a lot more than that. We’re an art space.”
Matteson and Kloecker had intended on a quiet launch for the project, while they continued fundraising for the SIP (studio in progress) Fund
. Now they’re planning a series of interactive events open to SIP funders first, then the general public; some pop-up Water Bars with guest bartenders; and a real opening during Art-A-Whirl
For now, though, the Water Bar is “doing what we’ve always intended it to do,” Matteson says. “Spark conversation.”