Developing a deep sense of stewardship for our Great Lakes also means celebrating the creativity and passion sparked by these magnificent freshwater resources. “Art Meets Water” is an ongoing series of collaborations with committed artists, inspired by the ability of art to amplify our critical connection to water. The Great Lakes Belong to All of Us. “All of Us” speaks to the many kinds of beautiful diversity in our Great Lakes community.
This rainbow-colored handprint—including the black and brown stripes at the top to honor queer and trans people of color—featured in front of Hotel Indigo in downtown Traverse City reminds us that environmental justice and water rights are inextricably connected to racial justice and the rights of people of all sexualities and genders.
“These waters are part of our DNA,” says FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. “We in the Great Lakes Basin are water people. The lakes, the rivers, and the groundwater inspire artists of every background. The water is what brings us together.” Water inspires art, and that art—in the form of poetry, music, paintings, dance, letters—drives us to protect the Great Lakes. Thus, it’s a cyclical relationship.
FLOW’s new “Art Meets Water” page highlights examples of the heart-felt creativity that inspires us to fight for our public waters. “We all know that water is the source of the future,” says Leelanau County poet, playwright and paddleboarder Anne-Marie Oomen. “But it’s also a part of our souls and our spirits.”
FLOW recently hosted two virtual book events and discussions during the COVID-19 pandemic that celebrated our relationship to water. In September 2020, we co-hosted Sally Cole-Misch discussing her novel, The Best Part Of Us, and in January 2021, we hosted poet Alison Swan discussing her collection, A Fine Canopy.
In the above video, Anne-Marie Oomen’s voice leads us on groundwater mystical odyssey — from the invisible to the ever-present. “What is done above can reach the water below, and will join my slow, inexorable flow. Take care for I will emerge from the ground one day into a drinking water well, into the rivers and lakes, and into the hand of a child digging in beach sand.”
In October 2019, the Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City hosted a fundraiser to benefit FLOW and the Great Lakes, featuring 26 pieces from 19 fine artists from the region invited to create a work of art relating to water. See a preview of the event in the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Love Letters to the Lakes
“To find myself on this shoreline that is changing and unchanged all at once is nearly everything anyone could ever want, that anyone could ask for. It’s love like no other, to be near clean waters. I call you the Great Mother, not simply because you are old, though you are a revered elder. I call you the Great Mother, all five, because you shelter life’s beings. In you I find deep and abiding solace.”
“These waters are valuable to us on a deeply psychic level,” said Anne-Marie Oomen, who together with the Beach Bards presented “Love Letters to the Lakes” on July 24, 2019, to the International Joint Commission (IJC) during its visit to Traverse City. “When we write these love letters to water, it affirms our deepest selves and our commitment to the water. It also lets the International Joint Commission know about that psychic need we have to care for the water and see that it is valued, protected, and defended.” Watch a video of the entire “Love Letters” presentation.
The Beach Bards, a Leelanau County-based troupe of poets and storytellers, presented “Love Letters to the Lakes” to the International Joint Commission (IJC) during its visit to Traverse City on July 24, 2019. Bard Anne-Marie Oomen had invited writers across Michigan to submit prose that expressed their bond with our public waters. Booklets containing those letters were presented to the Commissioners.
What did you do with our precious water?
What did you do?
Who can own this blue-blessed blessing
This wide-as-night liquid body, this
life-making water that comes in the shape
of waves that sculpt our very souls?
And how will we answer our children
who will need it to answer their own thirsts,
who will ask the question we all must carry:
what did you do with our precious water?
Click here to read a flip-book version of the “Love Letters to the Lakes” manuscript which was presented to the International Joint Commission. Or click here to read as a PDF.
In Praise of Water
Cellist Crispin Campbell and “Mad Angler” poet Mike Delp performed at a benefit for FLOW (For Love of Water) on June 28, 2019, at the Cathedral Barn at Historic Barns Park in Traverse City.
Sitting in Delp’s boat on Green Lake, the “Mad Angler” and the “Mad Cellist” explained the motivation for their artistic collaboration in support of water.
“The Mad Angler finds himself upset about the state of affairs that Michigan rivers find themselves in,” said Delp. “When you hear that deep sound coming out of the cello, that’s the heart of where this comes from … I’m right down inside that cello.”
“When you talk about water running down under the ground, talking about the aquifer, that’s deep,” said Campbell. “What FLOW is doing is important stuff. This is a great vehicle to get that out.”
“It’s just one more opportunity to raise money to shut down Line 5,” emphasized Delp.