Working Classroom has historically worked with artists and teen fellows to create a Day of the Dead installation, generally revolving around social justice topics. This year was no different. Student Michelle Perez explained how the group approached the topic through study and exchange: “We were working with the idea of healthier lives and knowing where our food and water came from. So the theme of water contamination came from research we did together about water history. We all found stories and articles about water contamination from all around the world. I found a story about how Uranium mining affected the lives of thousands of New Mexicans before and after a tragic event where a bunch of radioactive waste was dumped into the Puerto River near Church Rock, N.M. The event was called the Church Rock Mill Spill of 1979. It was an accident that will take decades to fix.”
“Our society unfortunately takes water for granted and it is time to realize we can't. My hope is that people who come to this Día de los Muertos exhibit understand that people are dying from polluted water and our supply of water is dying itself,” Garcia continued, speaking to his hopes for what community members might take away from experiencing these works of art. Echoing that thought, Perez added, “What I really hope others take away from our hard work is the stories we told.” She herself was deeply impacted by the process of learning about the impact of polluted waters on the entire landscape. She spoke again of Church Rock, saying, “All life near the river was changed forever. Sheep who drank the water died or became mutated, the people used the Puerto River as their main source of water, the poisoning leading them to many health problems, and all the green life such as trees and shrubs around the area died, leaving the land an empty space of radiation.”
These stories, underlined in the art of Working Classroom's young artists and their collaborators are likely to be impactful for all who access them. Honored through art, these stories are amplified and honored in the work, and the vitality of water is further highlighted.
Stop in for the opening of A Thirst for Justice from 6 to 9pm this Friday, Nov. 2, at Three Sisters. More information is available online at workingclassroom.org.