Bring your own water to the “Each Day, Water” installation in Poughkeepsie

Elizabeth Phelps Meyer collecting water at Missouri River. (Photo by Benjamin Loyseau)

The Hudson Valley being in many ways the cradle of the US environmental movement – particularly with regard to water pollution and energy issues – it seems inevitable that the recent activism of the indigenous-led Water Protector Movement, opposing the routing of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, would resonate deeply with many in this region. Among those who sought their own ways to support the Water Protectors was Poughkeepsie-based artist Elizabeth Phelps Meyer, whose own forebears are traceable back to the Wampanoag leader Metacom (known to the English colonists as King Philip), during the late 1600s in the Plymouth Colony.

“I have native ancestry, and feel kinship. To honor my ancestry, I need to be an ally in the current struggle,” says Phelps Meyer, who spent two weeks this summer at Standing Rock prayer camps, recording interviews with native leaders. “I care about these people and the planet. My art matters only to the degree it can change people’s minds and feelings.” Accordingly, the artist has organized a monthlong installation and accompanying series of public events titled “Each Day, Water,” which officially opens at Art Centro in Poughkeepsie with a reception at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 5.

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“Each Day, Water: A Monument for the Water Protectors of Standing Rock and Beyond” is a temporary, interactive and immersive ceramic and sound installation that will run from now until October 27. The exhibition shows 365 porcelain vessels that the artist has created and wood-fired since autumn 2016. Water from the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers at Standing Rock will fill the vessels, as well as water from other important places of struggle against the “Black Snake” (fossil fuel infrastructure), including our region’s own Muhheakantuc, the Hudson River. Members of the public are invited to add their own water to the installation at any time during the weeks of the exhibit. The audio installation will feature statements from more than 20 Water Protectors from Standing Rock and other Sioux communities, as well as non-native allies in the Water Protector Movement.

Community events in conjunction with the exhibition will include a screening of the documentary Black Snake Killaz at 3 p.m. on Sunday, October 7; “River People,” a slideshow and talk about Munsee Delaware, Wappingers, Tappan and Mohican people of this region with Evan Pritchard at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 8; “Decolonization,” a roundtable discussion with Molly McGlennan, Crystal Migwans, Joan Henry, Jennifer Weston and Two Clouds at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 13; “Earthsinger, Songs and Stories of Water and Water Protectors” with Joan Henry at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 13; an artist talk with Elizabeth Phelps Meyer at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 19; a screening of Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock at 3 p.m. on Sunday, October 21; and a performance by Kontiwennenhawi: Women Singers of Akwesasne at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 26.

The exhibit will close on Saturday, October 27 with a traditional water ceremony by Standing Rock Water Protector Chas Jewett and a Walk from Art Centro to Waryas Waterfront Park with Ojibwe elder Sharon Day. To find out more about “Each Day, Water,” call (845) 454-4535, e-mail ceramics.artcentro@gmail.com or visit www.midhudsonheritage.org or www.elizabethpmeyer.com/each-day-water.

“Each Day, Water: A Monument for the Water Protectors of Standing Rock and Beyond,” Oct. 2-27, Opening Reception, Friday, Oct. 5, 5 p.m. Art Centro, 85 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, (845) 454-4535, www.midhudsonheritage.org/art-centro