Water and Art


Since 2014, the Perry Avenue Commons has been a space of regeneration and transformation through art, agriculture, hands-on learning, carpentry, and community. Sweet Water Foundation practices Regenerative Neighborhood Development - a radically reconstructive and holistic model of economic development that transforms disinvested spaces into productive and sustainable spaces of healing, intergenerational connections, and beauty. A critical, yet often overlooked component of SWF’s practice is water. SWF has creatively and intentionally called the issue of water to attention as it works towards neighborhood transformation. For example, since launching the Perry Ave Community Farm in 2014, the site has not had access to power or water. Sweet Water Foundation staff have had to creatively develop ways to bring water to the farm, so that healthy food can continue to be produced for the community.

Read on to learn more about the role of art and water in SWF’s practice.

A critical, yet often overlooked component of SWF’s practice is water.

Water and Art

In early 2018, SWF’s Executive Director, Emmanuel Pratt, was invited by the US Water Alliance, in partnership with ArtPlace America, to be on the Advisory Group for their Advancing One Water Through Arts and Culture initiative. This initiative seeks to integrate water, arts, and culture in the planning and development of communities. The Advisory Group highlights organizations such as Sweet Water Foundation that are “making invisible water systems visible, engaging and educating the public in new ways, taking a creative approach to planning, and transforming communities through art”.

In July, Pratt was invited to the “One Water Summit” in Minneapolis, MN to share the way Sweet Water Foundation integrates water into every aspect of Regenerative Neighborhood Development. The Summit gathered leaders from across the country to share ideas on creating sustainable, creative, inclusive, and transformational methods to care for water. During the Summit, Pratt connected with Debra Shore, Commissioner on the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and fellow Advisory Group member. Debra has been an advocate for equitable access to clean water in the Greater Chicago area and has focused on cleaning Chicago waterways. The connection resulted in a meeting at The Commons to witness SWF’s practice in action.

Water Leaders Visit The Commons

On August 17, 2018, Commissioner’s Debra Shore and Kari Steele visited The Commons to experience the practice of Regenerative Neighborhood Development in action. During their tour, they interacted with SWF Apprentices, staff, and local community members to witness and hear about the radical transformation of a community through the integration of art, culture, and water. The day was inspirational, with conversations focused on the way the commissioners and SWF can work together to bring sustainable and equitable access to water to marginalized communities across the City of Chicago.

Courtney Hug