Art Touches Our Souls to “Promote the Protection and Responsible Use of Water”

Our Living Waters is featuring stories about member organizations that use art in their work, putting a spotlight on the art and artists involved! This focus on “The Art of Water” aims to: highlight effective ways of driving change; honour the sacredness of water; and centre on Right Relations with Indigenous Peoples and waters in Canada. 

Denise.pngImagine a freshwater museum housed inside a water treatment plant! At the Sainte-Rose facility in Laval, Québec, you can see water distribution pumps through a window as you tour the Centre d’interprétation de l’eau (C.I.EAU). I recently interviewed Denise Cloutier, executive director for the C.I.EAU, a Quebec-based freshwater museum on the road (or river!) to become a National Water Museum. From Denise’s perspective, the C.I.EAU is a “nursery of science, heritage and art projects for promoting the protection and responsible use of water”.


Photo credits - C.I.EAU (header photo from outside the museum, second photo of Denise, third of museum interior)

Touching our souls so we value and act for water

Denise : “Artists transmit messages differently. These messages about water challenges need to be seen, heard and felt by people in order to be truly understood. To raise awareness, we need to touch people. For me, art is the medium ‘par excellence’ that reaches people's souls.”

The C.I.EAU has mastered communicating through art to raise freshwater awareness and inspire supporter actions for water, two of the impact measures in our Shared Measurement System that prove challenging to quantify. Here are just some of the ways the C.I.EAU engages with peoples' senses to drive change (links in French unless otherwise noted):

  • The River Rally (Rallye des rivières), an award-winning (second link in English) participatory activity: Along the banks of the rivers surrounding Laval and northern Montreal, 21 placards promote the heritage, flora and fauna of the watershed through a treasure hunt style challenge. One year, the artist Claire-Marie Gosselin invited people to create art with her from refuse they found as they completed the tour, helping to raise awareness about tangible watershed impacts.
  • Collaboration with a Laval-based artists’ group, the Regroupement des auteurs publics professionnels et émergents lavallois Parole-Création: A temporary exhibit in the museum currently features poems and photographs inspiring connection with the Mille-Îles and des Prairies Rivers. Take a look at a video of the winner from the related ‘Mille et une gouttes d’eau’ (Thousand and One Water Drops) story-writing contest.
  • The Eldorad’eau theatre experience: This play helps open peoples’ hearts and spirits to the importance of taking care of air and water. Along the way, it incorporates old Quebec folktales such as the Chasse-galerie (link in English)!
  • A creative dance experience with the company Aurée Danse Création: In July 2022, families participated in an outdoor dance event, paying tribute to water through their own creations and a gratitude exercise for water.


Photo credit - C.I.EAU (Eldorad'eau play)

Honouring, celebrating and creating pride

Denise: “Rather than denouncing what is happening to water, we can pay homage to our ‘blue gold’. I want to bring people together around something that we can be proud of, hearing from artists who have a positive message to transmit.”

21.png One way of accomplishing this is through remembering our heritage. The C.I.EAU houses a collection of over 500 artefacts from the industrial past of the water industry, which continues to grow as old water infrastructure is decommissioned (e.g. the Craig Pumping Station, whose mysteries featured in a temporary C.I.EAU exhibit, or the McTavish Station in Montreal, which will provide future artefacts). The heritage of water in Canada is also intricately interwoven with Indigenous peoples, so the C.I.EAU is spearheading a new multilingual virtual water museum in collaboration with the Traditional Mohawk Council, structured around the relation between water and the thirteen moons.
22.png Providing a physical space for celebrating water together is also essential. As Denise put it, ““The C.I.EAU will soon be transformed into a National Water Museum and will be an even greater source of pride for Laval, Quebec and Canada. Multi-purpose rooms will host talks, shows, temporary exhibits, our play, receptions, etc. This kind of space where artists can express themselves around water is essential to transmit our message.” A benefit gala for the new museum is also in the works. It will feature twenty singer-songwriters and musicians from the province of Quebec to celebrate water.
23.png And finally, the C.I.EAU honours water by bridging generations. Multimedia television shows, plays, events and museum exhibits target the whole family. In this way, the C.I.EAU fosters a sense of collective pride in our water that speaks to peoples’ hearts and spirits! For more information about these innovative programs, reach out to the C.I.EAU.
Rebekah Kipp
About Rebekah Kipp
Network Communications Lead, Our Living Waters: mother, freshwater champion, beachcomber, and origami enthusiast
Art Touches Our Souls to “Promote the Protection and Responsible Use of Water”
Art Touches Our Souls to “Promote the Protection and Responsible Use of Water”
Imagine a Canada where all waters are in good health: