Public performances of the underwater concert titled “Aqurld Waves at the Water About Us” were held at the HPER Center swimming pool at 7 p.m., 7:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Oct 4 and 6.
To create a site-specific artistic experience, the HEARding Cats Collective, an artists-in-residence percussion group, provided music and spoken word poetry in conjunction with Core Dance, a group of artists-in-residence dancers.
The experience included about 20 minutes of music played on special instruments and poetry recited while the the dancers performed both in and out of the water.
Just outside the pool area were tables set up with various water-related presentations, a Berkey water filter and brochures describing Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto and his experiments with water crystals.
The audience was given the choice to sit in chairs outside of the pool or to get inside the pool where viewers were encouraged to go underwater and listen to the music. Pool noodles were provided for use and students from UCA’s Department of Occupational Therapy were available to help those with special needs into the pool.
Together with the Conway Alliance for the Arts and Conway EcoFest, UCA has been a part of producing an opportunity for the community of Conway to open up a discussion about water as a civil right and social justice issue using various types of art.
Many events were held Oct. 1-6, with the last showings of the concert closing out the series.
Nearly a year earlier, the idea for the concept of an underwater project was born via conversations between Jennifer Deering, a UCA grant writer, Ryan Harris, the executive director of the Oxford American magazine and Gayle Seymour, Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and was brought to life this fall. Further consultation with Sue Schroeder of Core Dance and Rich O’Donnell, Anna Lum, and Mike Murphy of the HEARding Cats Collective led to the production of “Aqurld Waves at The Water About Us”.
The concert’s vision was for the artistic production was to change how the audience thought about water.
“We don’t want to just entertain people. We want them to leave thinking they’ve been inspired or somehow engaged with water in a new way,” Seymour said.
The concert is meant partly to remind viewers that the sound conducted by the water can be felt throughout the entire body. This type of “felt” experience is what Seymour said makes the arts special.
“It really has this ability to reach people in deeper and different ways than just normal talking or reading” Seymour said.
In light of UCA’s lack of a dance program, Seymour was reminded of the importance of bringing in dancers and exposing students to that medium of art as well.
This isn’t the first project she has invited Core Dance to be a part of and her taste for the group’s style isn’t merely coincidental either.
“I always know when I bring them in, it’s going to be a deeper really important subject,” Seymour said.
Sue Schroeder, founder of Core Performance Company, is just as passionate about the project and hopes to send the same type of message one that can be felt.
“Maybe a precious experience with the water will give you a sense of its importance,” Schroeder said, later noting that the experience might also remind viewers of their relationship with water or simply just its beauty.
Poetry recited during the concert presented a reminder of how much of the human body is made of water and how vital it is to our planet.
Other free public events preceding the concert during “The Water About Us” series included puppet performances in the city, an art installation and opportunities for public gathering and conversation.
The week did not come into fruition without hard work and funding.
A UCA online news article promoting the week gives due credit to multiple organizations. It reads, ““The Water About Us’ is funded by a grant from Mid-America Arts Alliance (Regional Touring Program), an agency of the National Endowment for the Arts serving Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Additional funding is provided by a grant from the Arkansas Arts Council (Collaborative Support Program), an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts, and by UCA through Reynolds Performance Hall, the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication arts fee and UCA Sponsored Programs.”
Photos by Lauren Swaim