The Hydro-Illuminata exhibit features cast-iron boats created by dozens of community members and 13 iron-pour artists. Photo by Nate Gotlieb

Exhibit highlights intersection of art and water

Updated: May 18, 2017 – 2:04 pm

An art exhibit in North Minneapolis is casting light on the importance of the Mississippi River.

The Hydro-Illuminata exhibit features dozens of miniature cast-iron boats created by 72 citizen artists and 13 iron-pour artists. The exhibit is the culmination of the nearly yearlong Hydro-Illuminata project, which aimed to spur deeper conversation about improving water quality and protecting watershed resources.

“We want just to have people pause for a second and have them think about how they capture water,” said Jim Brenner, the lead artist on the project.

Brenner, a Minneapolis-based sculptor, utilized funding from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association and the Minnesota Waldorf School to implement the project. He held four community workshops this past summer and fall, during which community members molded their own boats out of clay.

Brenner and workshop leaders asked participants what water meant to them and also talked about the basics of best water-management practices.

“It was more about asking questions and trying to have people look within,” Brenner said. “Just having that conversation had its own synergy.”

The four workshops culminated in an iron-pour event Oct. 1 on the Mississippi River, during which Brenner and the artists cast the clay molds into molten iron. Other artists used slow-exposure photography to capture the boats on the water, and middle school students from the Minnesota Waldorf School did a performance.

Ward 1 Minneapolis City Council Member Kevin Reich said the project helped boost the notion that art can be in service to science and environmentalism.

Reich, who chairs the MWMO Board of Commissioners, said the project’s social nature helped instill a deeper understanding of the river’s importance in a way a public-service announcement, for example, could not.

“Being around the table and talking about it collectively deepened the understanding,” he said.

Adelheid Koski, neighborhood coordinator and former board chair of HNIA, said in an email that the workshops were a great opportunity to learn about and reflect upon how water moves through the neighborhood and the importance of the river.

The association has focused on overarching goals pertaining to energy, art and innovation over the past decade, according to Koski. It’s begun to identify itself as a river community, in part because of its proximity to the river but also because the Green Campus initiative, a series of environmentally friendly projects around Edison High School.

“Ultimately we want to engage and empower the community to be aware of, engage with, and care for our water and our community,” Koski wrote. “Using the arts and events like Hydro-Illuminata is one way we do that. ”

The Hydro-Illuminata exhibit runs through May 27 at Homewood Studios, 2400 Plymouth Ave. Hours are 5 p.m.–9 p.m. Tuesdays, 1 p.m.–6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and 1 p.m.–4 p.m. Saturdays.

There will be a closing party from 2 p.m.–5 p.m. on the 27th.