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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz

Get literally and figuratively closer to the lake.

"We Are Water" celebrates Milwaukee's big drink


Most Milwaukeeans value living in close proximity to a large body of water, but what are we willing to do to celebrate it? Improve it? Protect it?

The year-old Milwaukee Water Commons is a project committed to fostering connection, collaboration and leadership on behalf of the bodies of water in our community.

"The project is rooted in the belief that the Great Lakes belongs to no single entity but rather exists as a 'commons,'" says group leader Ann Brummitt. "We promote stewardship of, equitable access to and shared decision-making for our common waters."

The group will host its first event, "We Are Water," as a way to culminate its one-year anniversary and to get community members literally and figuratively closer to the lake. The event will take place on Sunday, Aug. 3 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on the north end of Bradford Beach.

Melanie Ariens, the group's artist in residence, came up with the idea for the event.

"Melanie wanted to honor the water in a way that would help us connect the lake with our own 70 percent H2O. To make it more personal and more beautiful. To give us all an opportunity for a little reverence at the end of the summer," says Brummitt. "I guess we all feel that if we are to save ourselves on this giant blue marble, a little reverence is needed."

The event is free and open to the public. The group encourages people to walk or ride their bike, but there will also be parking available on Lincoln Memorial Drive.

There will be music and spoken word by the Strawberry Moon Singers, a dance performance by DanceCircus and inspiration by local spiritual leaders.

The Overpass Light Brigade will hold illuminated signs with water statements and all participants will be asked to help illuminate a Great Lakes image with a cup of Lake Michigan water and a submersible light at sunset.

"We will have all kinds of people there, says Brummitt. "Anyone who loves the lakes and cares about water."

The group hopes Mayor Tom Barrett will proclaim August 3 as "We Are Water Day" in Milwaukee.

Brummitt says she views the living on or near water "as a gift and a responsibility" and people must treat bodies of water as such to ensure their preservation and enjoyment for coming generations. Consequently, the Milwaukee Water Commons has deeply contemplated what it means to be a "water city."

"Is it just an economic vision or does it need to be bigger and bolder ensuring that environmental stewardship is at the center? We think so and we are finding more and more Milwaukeeans that are excited about that, and about being a part of it," says Brummitt.

The group wants to grow the conversation around living near water and what that means in terms of responsibility not just Downtown but also on the North, South, East and West Sides of Milwaukee.

"As we look to solving many of our water challenges in the face of climate change, it is going to take all of us on board. We need more of us in on the conversation to make sure we come up with good and equitable solutions," says Brummitt.

"If we look to the past we see that we don't have a great track record in that regard. So as Milwaukee aspires to be a model freshwater city the MWC aspires to grow broader and more diverse leadership on the subject."

Brummitt was a public school teacher for 20 years and started doing environmental work in 2007. She worked on the Milwaukee River Greenway project until last year.

The Milwaukee Water Commons also includes co-director Alexa Bradley, a long-time water activist and founder of the project, and Jayme Montgomery Baker, a community organizer who worked at the Wisconsin League of Young Voters.

Jenny Plevin will document the event as part of two short documentaries being crafted at DOC/UWM.

"It should be quite beautiful," says Brummitt.


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