This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

The "Drink up!" mosaic installed above a pair of drinking water fountains in the library (Photo © Vassar College / Peter Bronski)

Drink Up: Celebrating Tap Water and the Hudson

The recent All-School Gift to Vassar wasn’t the only legacy left by members of the Class of 2011. The seven seniors who graduated this year from the Environmental Studies (ENST) program had another project in mind. It’s an ENST tradition that each year they collaborate on a project “with the intention of enriching the campus environment,” says Zoe Carpenter ’11. 

At their weekly senior seminar during the fall 2010 semester, a number of ideas were floated before one finally took hold: raising awareness about reducing bottled water consumption at Vassar, and celebrating the use of drinking fountains and tap water on campus.

With the help of ENST program director Lisa Paravisini-Gebert, the seven seniors—Zoe Carpenter, Elizabeth Jones, Abraham Falk-Rood, George Gao, Sam Schrader, Sophie Courser, and Pablo Arenas—first surveyed their fellow classmates about perceptions of campus tap water. They found that improvements to the campus’s drinking fountains would encourage greater use of reusable bottles. Working in partnership with Buildings and Grounds, the ENST team then inventoried all of the college’s fountains for function and cleanliness, and made recommendations for possible improvements.

Finally, they set out to build a mosaic artwork—nearly four feet by four feet—that captured the spirit of the project, and that celebrated tap water at Vassar. Their inspiration was a 2008 painting of the Hudson River (Poughkeepsie’s drinking water source, treated of course) by local artist John Beerman. More than 50 hours of work later, and the “Drink up!” mosaic—with colorful cracked glass, broken ceramic tiles, and stone—was complete. It now hangs above a pair of drinking fountains on the main level of Thompson Library. (Paravisini-Gebert's husband, Gordon, an architect, helped with installation logistics for the mosaic.)

“We’re happy to leave behind a reminder of all the resources we’ve been blessed with during our time at Vassar,” says Carpenter. “Plus, besides being committed to the environmental message of the project, we’re excited about the opportunity to encourage more public and student art on campus.”

While the mosaic remains as a visual reminder of the work of those seven ENST majors, their work also lives on in “Tap That!,” a campaign of the Vassar Greens. Under the guidance of Ethan Buckner and Eliza Gercke, both Class of 2013, they’re working to reduce bottled water consumption and encourage drinking tap water on campus. As the title of the ENST mosaic says, their message is simple: drink up! –Peter Bronski

ENST Mosaic (Courtesy Zoe Carpenter)

A mosaic in the making (Photo courtesy of Zoe Carpenter)


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