Student Perspectives on the Art Collection



Permanent link for Rough Waters: An Exhibition About Water on December 14, 2020

Student Perspective Provided By:

Autumn Flachs
Major: Art Education
Class of 2022

During the Fall 2020 semester, Autumn Flachs, class of 2022, in collaboration with Curator of Exhibitions, Joel Zwart, selected artworks from the GVSU permanent art collection representative of a broad range of water-related issues for an exhibition titled Rough Waters, now on view in the exhibition cases on the first floor of Zumberge Hall, Allendale campus. They also conducted research for and wrote the labels and introductory statement to accompany the exhibition. 

"For this exhibition, focusing on the socioeconomic and environmental impact of modern-day water issues was important to us. I looked specifically for works that either commented on water rights or the environmental effects of water-based geographical change, or were able to contextualize these issues with informational graphics. I am particularly fond of the two pieces from the Young Flint Speaks project, where young students from Flint, Michigan made drawings about their experience with the ongoing water crisis in their city. Kids are very straightforward and genuine about what they think and it's that’s obvious in the drawings. Everyone hopes for children to be as happy and healthy as possible, so it’s a shock to see the horrible messages in the works. Words like, ‘help us…’ ‘save us…’; bring up sobering but necessary feelings and help spread awareness about the Flint water crisis. 

For me personally, I loved this project and the process of creating it. I am an art student myself and so much of my own work is social and political commentary, on issues like Queer rights and politics, so I connected a lot of the pieces that were contenders for this exhibition. Water rights are an increasingly important issue that impacts everyone around the globe and deserves broader attention from first-world media. I hope that this exhibition sparks a conversation between people, and showcases why we all need to come together to solve our climate crisis as a unified front."
-Autumn Flachs

View the artwork in this exhibition.

Permanent link for Artists Responding to Crisis: Linden Charter Academy Students and the Flint Water Crisis on May 14, 2020

Student Perspective provided by:
Megan Daniels
Major: Studio Art
Minor: Public & Nonprofit Administration
Class of 2023

"I occasionally heard things about the Flint water crisis growing up in Wisconsin but didn’t understand how or why it happened until I came to GVSU. A flier was taped to one of the paper towel dispensers in a Holton Hooker Living & Learning Center bathroom that read, “Flint water is so corrosive; GM won’t even use it on their motors.” I couldn’t believe that a city would subject their citizens to such danger, and I later learned about the unsafe lead levels found in children and babies. Vast amounts of information can be found on this issue including a first-person perspective from the children of Flint Michigan, a perspective that commonly goes unheard and unseen. GVSU acquired a collection of 113 artworks by student artists from 6th through 8th grade at Linden Charter Academy in Flint that express what it has been like growing up in the midst of the Flint water crisis." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks: Clean Our Water
Zeporah B.
Marker and Colored Pencil
"In this drawing, a student repeatedly depicts an object commonly used in protest, the picket signs. These signs carry messages that I don’t think a child should have to face; “Don’t Drink the Water,” “Help our People,” “Fix the Pipes,” “Clean our Water,” “Flint Lives Matter,” “No more bottled water,” and lastly “Save.” These signs give me only a glimpse of what these kids have lived through; surrounded by a fear of water--a necessity for all life--that they can’t safely access." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks: Save Us
Keiori L.
Paint and Marker
"What caught my attention in this artwork was not only the large words reading, “Save Us” but also the faint sign in the background reading, “I’m Thirsty.” As a former part-time babysitter, I heard this statement frequently. For the parents/guardians of Flint though, it isn’t as easy as filling a glass from the tap and giving it to the child. With limited supply of purified water, each family has to ration their water supply. “100% 810” is written on the shirt of the main figure; 810 is the area code for Flint, MI. The courage and pride in the community of Flint is shown through the addition of this shirt detail, and 810 can be seen in a variety of other works done by students in this collection." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks: Help Us It’s Killing Us
Elisha J.
Paint and Marker
"'It’s killing us' is something I would never expect to hear from a child. Living in fear of harm or death is a concept I struggle with as a young adult; the children of Flint, MI however have no choice but to live with that fear at a young age. The courage the students show through sharing their experiences in these artworks is admirable and helps me understand what they are going through. The strength and resilience these students show through their artwork is something I can look to as commendable." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks: “Purified”
Ayani J.
Paint and Marker
"Imagine going to the faucet, turning it on and seeing brownish yellow water. Then imagine being told by government officials that it is purified water and safe to drink. This artwork shows a plastic bottle filled with undrinkable water and the word “Purified” written across the front, alluding to the mistrust Flint residents have felt towards the government since the Flint water crisis began." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks
Jazmine L.
Paint and Marker
"In this work a student included a very important aspect of the #Flint water crisis; the pipes. Pipes surround the main figure, dripping and mangled. The broken, chaotic pipes surrounding the girl as she cries really drew emotion out of me. This work gives me a sense of hopelessness and I imagine a lot of these kids feel that hopelessness growing up in Flint, MI." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks: Save The Water
Kaniyah W.
Paint and Marker
"'Save our Children,' reads a sign held by a mother who’s holding the hand of a child. As a kid and tween, the last worry on my mind was whether or not I could safely drink the water coming out of the faucet. I would come home from school, get a snack and a glass of water, and not think twice about it. This artwork clearly shows that is not the case for the families and children of Flint, MI. A seemingly mundane aspect of life has become something they need to fight for." - Megan Daniels

Young Flint Speaks: All About The Water
Teonnie G.
Paint and Marker
'We Love Water'
'Floods of water, Loving water, I have water, Nobody is safe, The water is here.'
'We love water, All people need water, The water matter, Everyone needs water, Read all about it.'
"The use of poetry in this painting provides another perspective about the importance of water as recognized by a child. The children of Flint are growing up in a reality much different from my own. This collection is an important addition to the GVSU Art Gallery and is a reminder to me of the privilege I had growing up with safe water." - Megan Daniels


Page last modified December 14, 2020