The Power of Arts and Culture to Transform our Water Future, Part Two

Posted on May 21, 2020

Women at Water Workshop

The following blog is a two-part series that explores how the arts and culture are contributing to the organization’s larger vision.  In this second blog we hear from Radhika Fox, CEO and Katy Lackey, Senior Program Manager at the US Water Alliance about how arts and cultural strategies specifically came to inform both the professional gatherings and their organization’s programming. This blog is part of ELGL, ArtPlace America, and Civic Art’s “Creative Community” learning series about the role of arts and culture in local government.

Working at the intersection of water, arts, and culture has been—and continues to be—a journey for the US Water Alliance. At the One Water Summit in 2019, we infused arts and culture throughout our programming. This materialized in art installations, an art app walk, musical performances, dialogues, presentations and more.

The Arts, Culture, and One Water Expansion workshop kicked off with all participants drawing their favorite waterbody from memory on a neighbors’ hand, which started the session off with the emotional connection we all have with water. During the workshop participants discussed various funding mechanisms for artists and the importance of discovering the hidden artistic talents of staff at our various workplaces that go beyond our formal work titles. We ended the workshop with a brainstorm of ways to better incorporate art into our work into a fabric mural with each wave an idea. The mural was later hung in for other Summit participants being able to see.  

Arctivist Benny Star Presenting

Benny Starr, an “artivist” (artist and activist), closed out the Summit with a striking performance. His spoken

word and music from the recently released The Water Album, challenged water utility managers, business leaders, consultants, environmental groups, and community activists in the room to confront the climate realities on black and brown communities throughout the nation. His performance inspired tears, conversations, and new thinking on climate action to address flooding.

Overall, the response to these and other examples was overwhelming; people were hungry for more!

As we continue on this path, we are very excited to initiate a Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator program in Summer 2020. The accelerator will pilot with arts-water partnerships in five communities around the nation. Each pilot will select a climate-related water challenge to make progress on through the integration of arts and culture. We believe that bringing water utilities and artists together around climate issues will accelerate action on climate change in the water sector, boost long-term strategies and investments in between extreme events, and help utilities and vulnerable communities address climate trauma to find common ground solutions. In addition, the Alliance will host an artist in residence program to support the pilot communities and further infuse art through our own work. 

We are so grateful to the many that are walking this journey with us. In these uncertain and challenging times, the fragility of our water systems reminds us why it is so important to invest in a brighter water future. The COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on existing inequities and the difficulty of managing multiple crises. Now more than ever, we need courageous and creative leadership that brings people together and inspires new solutions.

Arts and culture continue to inspire new thinking and approaches in the water sector. And our work is better because of this! Follow our arts journey at:

Radhika Fox is the Chief Executive Officer of the US Water Alliance, a national nonprofit organization advancing policies and programs that build a sustainable water future for all. Radhika is a widely recognized national thought leader on complex water issues, from equitable water management to investing in our nation’s water infrastructure. With more than 20 years of experience in developing policies, programs, and issue-based advocacy campaigns, Radhika is a sought-after public speaker and facilitator. She’s delivered keynote speeches and on-the-record interviews on the most salient water issues facing the nation including climate change, affordability, equity, governance, innovative finance, and the evolution of the One Water movement. Interviews with Radhika have appeared in local media and national outlets including The Washington Post and NPR. Connect with Radhika on Twitter.


Katy Lackey is a Senior Program Manager at the US Water Alliance. Her portfolio focuses on developing and managing several strategic initiatives for One Water and climate resilience. Katy’s current work explores change leadership in a new era of One Water management, equitable flood resilience, and how arts and culture can help solve water sector challenges. In 2013, Katy completed an M.A. in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development at the United Nation’s University for Peace in Costa Rica, as well as an M.A. in International Affairs at American University’s School for International Service in Washington, DC. Her graduate research focused on how perceptions of climate change shaped the evolution of stormwater management in Bogota, Colombia. Connect with Katy on Twitter.

You can find more information on the US Water Alliance on their website or connect with them on Twitter.

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