GV Making Waves Initiative highlights importance of water through art galleries


GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Allison Rafferty

As a part of the Making Waves Initiative, two coinciding art galleries reside on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus. 

The Making Waves Initiative has been a two-year-long ongoing project that calls for collaboration and creates opportunities for GVSU students, faculty, staff, and community. 

According to a statement released by the Art Gallery, “The initiative provides new opportunities to explore and investigate the many ways that water permeates our lives and the natural world around us.”

The first gallery, known as the “Making Waves” exhibition, is being held at the Kirkhof Wall Gallery until March 5. This exhibition is a result of work between the Grand Valley Art Gallery and the Making Waves team to promote the initiative and document the many programs and events that have been created. 

Joel Zwart, curator of exhibitions for the Art Gallery, said the gallery is meant to emphasize the importance of water in all of our lives. 

“It is also a celebration of water and the many ways we’re connected to it,” said Zwart.

Peter Wampler, GVSU Hydrology and Geology Professor and a co-leader of the initiative, said that this gallery is special because it highlights some of the accomplishments the Making Waves Initiative has had and how GVSU makes water an important part of campus life. 

“(The gallery) focuses on how we can integrate (water) into what we do at Grand Valley like co-curricular activities and art performances,” said Wampler. 

The second exhibition, titled the “Rough Waters” Exhibition, will be held in the Zumberge Hall lobby through Fall 2021. 

Wampler said that with the “Rough Waters” gallery, there’s a big focus on the preciousness and precariousness nature of water along with “the fact that we can pollute and overuse water pretty easily.” 

“We need to be careful with water and cherish it just like any other resource,” said Wampler. 

Zwart also worked with student assistant Autumn Flachs to create and design the “Rough Waters” exhibition to help bring attention to water rights issues across the globe. 

“This project is aimed at bringing light to the issues surrounding water access and global climate change,” said Flachs. 

She said she hopes that viewers of the gallery “are able to learn about or even just appreciate the impact of water access in less fortunate countries, and understand the scope of influence that climate change is having on the water on our planet.”

Water, and everything to do with it, heavily influences the artwork in both galleries. 

Water is obviously a very present resource in Michigan, and we often take it for granted,” Flachs said. “Exhibits like these are hopefully able to showcase the global fight for water access rights that other communities experience.”

Zwart said that he mainly credits the geographical location of the “Mitten State” for the impact water has on the artwork. 

“One of the reasons water was chosen to be the focus of this initiative is because it dominates so much of the landscape and our lives here in Michigan,” said Zwart. 

Zwart said he hopes viewers of both galleries will find a way to engage with the Making Waves initiative and reflect on the role of water in their life.

Wampler feels the same, and said he hopes the galleries brought to light the many ways people and water are intertwined. 

“This Making Waves Initiative was all about making connections and providing opportunities for people to interact in ways around water that they maybe didn’t think of,” Wampler said.