Because water is such a necessary part of life, many of the structures that deal with transporting water just sort of fade into the background. They’re so ubiquitous that they’re often about as remarkable as telephone poles or street signs. Things such as sewer grates, street drains, and water towers are widely ignored by the public. That’s not to say that they’re underappreciated, exactly, because I’m certain that most people are aware of how useful the sewers are, but most people just don’t think about them.
Water towers are probably the best example of this. Their massive size and high altitude makes them easy to spot. Every so often, you’ll spot a massive water tower that reads “Welcome to Our Town” or something like it, but by and large water towers are just kind of there: present in our field of view but visually boring.
New York city officials hope to take advantage of these grossly underutilized public objects to bring more attention to the importance of water by upcycling water towers. After all, if thousands of New Yorkers every day are going to look at any of the city’s water towers, why not use them to promote a positive message?
To that end, they have started the Water Tank Project to select 300 water tanks that will be transformed into pieces of public art. They will be giving artists free reign to do whatever they please, as long as they create wrap-around art that serves to promote awareness of water as a precious resource.
Many prominent artists have already signed up, including such names as E.V. Day, Andy Goldsworthy, Ed Ruscha, and Jay-Z (who knew Jay-Z painted?). You can see a few of the proposed water tower designs at the Water Tower Project main website.
Using these water towers as canvases was a brilliant idea. Their high altitude makes them visible, but not so prominent and in-y0ur-face as to become an eyesore. Best of all, these pieces of art will serve to beautify a city dominated by concrete and stone. Hopefully, other cities will follow New York’s lead by transforming unutilized, drab public spaces into beautiful and ecologically conscious works of art.