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Artist Rik Sargent on his "One World, One Water" sculpture at Metro State

Metropolitan State College of Denver is hosting a dedication ceremony this afternoon that will showcase its newest monument: a 12-foot-high, 8-foot-deep, 10-foot-wide,1.5 ton water sculpture designed by artist Rik Sargent, and dedicated to Metro's One World, One Water Center for Urban Water and Education. With Sargent's support, the OWOW Center is developing a new degree program that will offer an interdisciplinary water studies minor this fall.

The dedication ceremony -- set for 4:30 p.m. today at the Student Success Building south lawn on the Auraria campus -- is part of the OWOW Center's first Campus Water Festival, which is designed to educate the public about the growing demand for water and highlight current and future job openings in water-resource fields. Westword caught up with Sargent before the event to find out...why water?

Westword: Can you talk about the philosophy behind the One World, One Water sculpture?

Rik Sargent: It has two layers. The first and foremost -- why the patron commissioned it -- was to create a point of celebration in water education. But my motivation for the piece was to create a world unity symbol, not with religion or politics, but by using water as the common denominator.

Why water?

Aw, man, water is everything. We, the One World, One Water Group, are passionate about using the arts to facilitate creative conversations about ecological and water issues. What's meant by that is, there are things you can say as an artist that would seem politically incorrect if people of leadership said them. Artists can use humor and be tongue-in-cheek, the same way a late-night talk-show host can do this. It deepens the conversation.

What kind of conversation are you hoping to facilitate?

We are in a renaissance of water awareness in the West and around the world. The old rules of water use and natural resource use were based on infinite forests and rivers. Now that we're aware that they are very finite, we're moving from natural resource to commodity. As a commodity, that means somebody owns our water. For the first time now, that's inevitable in the unfolding of the planet. What we have to do as people is to be conscious of that. It's a very complicated discussion and it has to be done with a certain amount of joy or it becomes venomous. It's not about good guys or bad guys; it's about people adjusting to evolution.

What was your inspiration for the sculpture?

I have a strong, personal statement about this. I've worked with water as a theme for almost twenty years. We've been in an age with a chauvinistic relationship with the natural world, controlled with dams and engineering. We are being introduced to a feminine age. When we stop controlling the natural world through force and allow its feminine nature to be recognized, we will come to equal terms with it. Two equal wings to one bird.

Can you describe the physical attributes of the sculpture?

It's a variety of habitat and watersheds from around the world that is woven into a single, recycled drop of water. It took about a year to design, a year to carve and year to set it in copper -- so about a three-year project.

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The sculpture was originally housed in Bozeman, Montana. Why will it be permanently placed at Metro?

When it was created, we lent it to Montana to celebrate Project WET, the celebration of the Blue Planet World Conference on water use. They held it for a year. Now it's coming home. And the placement of the monument at Metro is coordinated to celebrate the Colorado Year of Water, H2O 2012. It is UN-mandated and very worthwhile.

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