Effects of Flint Water Crisis Expressed Through Art

Effects of Flint Water Crisis Expressed Through Art
19 Jun 2017

Michigan State Art Project Uses Copper Pipes to Tell Flint Residents’ Story

A system of copper pipes in Michigan has people talking, but it’s not what you might think.

“Beyond Streaming: A Sound Mural for Flint” is an exhibit featured at Michigan State University’s (MSU) Broad art museum, created by Chicago artist Jan Tichy and more than 60 high school students from Flint, Michigan’s Carman-Ainsworth High School and Lansing, Michigan’s Everett High School. Tichy and the museum joined together to offer an artistic response to the Flint water crisis.

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Photo: Jan Tichy

The exhibit consists of a series of copper pipes with faucets attached. The faucets don’t disperse water but instead disperse stories and poems of Flint children living in a city with lead-tainted drinking water. The project’s website also features hand-drawn pictures and will eventually hold written works detailing the struggles of Flint children during the water crisis. The project aims to give greater visibility to the water crisis and give a platform for unheard voices to finally be heard.

“While we recognize that a wide variety of initiatives have been launched in response to the Flint water crisis, this residency provides a unique opportunity for Tichy and the Broad MSU to join together in a shared belief in the power of art to offer more nuanced and poetic ways of coming to terms with the situation in Flint,” Broad MSU Assistant Curator Steven Bridges said in a press release. “One objective of this partnership is to further bridge these two neighborly communities and use artistic forms of expression to give voice and visibility to new perspectives generated by our shared work.”

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Photo: Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University

According to Bridges, copper pipes were chosen for the exhibit because he learned the city’s water was being routed away from the lead pipes in the ground and towards newly installed copper pipes. Pipes and faucets also presented an ordinary, familiar household item that could be used in an unfamiliar and thought-provoking way.

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Photo: Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University

The Flint water crisis has affected its residents since 2014, when the city’s water supply was switched to the Flint River. In March, Flint mayor Karen Weaver announced the city selected copper to replace the city’s damaged lead water lines. The project is ongoing and is expected to be completed in 2019.

The exhibit is open to the public and runs through Aug. 20th.  For more information about Beyond Streaming, visit the exhibit’s website.

For more information on copper’s role in the Flint water crisis, visit copper.org



  1. When I first visited this exhibit, I was overwhelmed. The use of copper piping as a means of communication, between the high school students of Flint with their counterparts in Lansing, and, between the Flint students and the viewers of the exhibit, presented a unique, powerful message. Turning a tap to hear a child’s story of reacting and adapting to the lack of clean of water gushing from the same type of tap in their home, emphasized not just the need for dependable water systems but for the role of copper as a necessary segment of a dependable water system, just as copper wiring has been used for communications systems for centuries.
    Copper is, literally, linking us together, as beautifully demonstrated through this exhibit.

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