Turning NYC Water Tanks into Works of Art by Jay-Z, Jeff Koons & More

Few upward-gazing New Yorkers think about the ubiquitous water tanks that dot the skyline and provide remarkably clean drinking water. To the artists at Word Above the Street, they are "a museum waiting to happen." The arts and technology non-profit, dedicated to social justice and environmental awareness, is working to transform 100 tanks around the Big Apple into public works of art, by Jay-Z, Jeff Koons, and more than 30 other artists.

When I mentioned this project to a friend, she replied, "I like them the way they are," meaning unnoticeable. The hope is that by making the tanks not only noticeable, but beautiful, the Water Tank Project, led by artist and activist Mary Jordan, will educate the public about the global water crisis (which is also hitting the US, by the way).

For 12 weeks next summer, the 100 tanks will be wrapped in artwork printed on a vinyl canvas (so there's no risk of damage to tanks or pollution of the water inside). Participating artist Catherine Opie argues that the painted tanks would be a much-needed counterweight to the dominance of advertising in New York City. As New York isn't going to ban billboards (like Sao Paolo, and some US states), it would be nice to have something in the air to gaze at that isn't an advertisement.

A project of this scale, which needs to produce a lot of original art and battle NYC bureaucracy, comes with a sizable price tag. To raise funds, Word Above the Street collaborated with Whole Foods to receive five percent of all sales on one day in March. To go with the successful effort and fully fund the Water Tank Project, Word Above the Street has launched a Kickstarter campaign, aiming for $1 million.

Here's the video pitch:

It's a lofty goal, but based on the $17,000 raised in the first 24 hours, it's attainable. That's not surprising; the Water Tank Project should appeal to anyone who loves public art, New York City, or clean water. That should be just about everyone.

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Turning NYC Water Tanks into Works of Art by Jay-Z, Jeff Koons & More
The "Water Tank Project" is raising funds to transform New York's water tanks into works of art.

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