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FSU water rights art exhibit features Native influences

“Mirror Shield Project” Oceti Sakowin camp, Standing Rock, North Dakota, December 2016, created by artist Cannupa Hanska Luger. (Courtesy photo)

An art exhibit focused on water rights and access inspired the new exhibition at the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts.

“A Shared Body,” which runs through Dec. 11, was curated by Meredith Lynn, assistant curator and director of galleries at MoFA, and Annie Booth, museum director of programs. It is the museum’s latest exhibition dealing with environmental issues.

“Water protection and management is one of the most pressing issues for the future of Florida, and the current students of FSU are going to be leaders of the environmental, social and political movements that will ensure our state is still here in 100 years,” Lynn said in a statement. “At MoFA, we have seen first-hand that art can inspire an open, nuanced conversation.”

In the exhibition, artists consider water access as both a human and civil right. With subject matter ranging from the Middle Passage to Flint, Michigan, and the Dakota Access Pipeline, the exhibition specifically focuses on the impact of water access to Black and Indigenous communities.

The exhibition features seven contemporary artists, including William Pope. L, Calida Garcia Rawles and Courtney M. Leonard. Leonard, an interdisciplinary artist, designs site-specific installations to create a sensory experience built on memory.

“Exploring themes of water access, rights and preservation, she brings Native knowledge of water filtration and transportation systems into the forefront with red clay pipes, oyster shells, video projection and color, asking the visitor to consider her perspective as a Shinnecock woman,” Booth said in a statement.

The museum commissioned a poem by Turtle Mountain Ojibwe writer and poet Heid E. Erdrich, “Ways of Water/Wash Over,” which serves as a guiding text for the exhibition.

“A Shared Body,” a shared responsibility, a shared experience, a shared need. As humans, we can impose ourselves onto our waterways through commodification, pollution, and control. The projects in ‘A Shared Body’ push back against the violence and imposition of the historic and ongoing impacts of colonialism and racism as they reclaim, protect, defend, and dream of a future of equity and access. The artists in this exhibition invite viewers to consider the spiritual, physical, and ever present connections we feel to water and what it means to the human condition when those connections become strained,” reads a statement on the museum’s website.

The FSU Museum of Fine Arts, located at 530 West Call Street in Tallahassee, is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at