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A Visual Interpretation of Community Engagement: Artists inspire conversations via a comic book

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#Community Engagement and Partnerships
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Paula Figueroa-Vega, JWW; Comic by Rediet Mereke and Ana Camacho-Lozada

Art can inspire conversations, activate imagination, and foster connections. Artists make ideas visual. Where does the artist belong in a space of water conversation? Who is creating a metaphor to understand the importance of connecting to the environment? How can we incorporate art as a form of communication? Jersey Water Works members and staff have started discussions with artists and art-supporting organizations to find common ground and engage communities.

In July 2023, Jersey Water Works and Lead-Free NJ hosted a joint membership meeting that brought together water and lead advocates to discuss water-related issues and the importance of community input and engagement. The meeting, attended by over 100 individuals, was held at Rutgers, New Brunswick, the perfect location for members of the New Brunswick-based organization coLAB Arts to display water and environment-related art.

Meeting organizers connected with John Keller, Director of Education at coLAB Arts and longtime member of Jersey Water Works. Mr. Keller selected two summer interns to participate in the event, Rediet Mereke and Ana Camacho-Lozada. The interns had a steady flow of visitors at their exhibition table, where they displayed art pieces connected to environmental themes. They networked and engaged participants in conversation during participatory parts of the meeting. Afterward, the interns were asked if they would like to share a reflection about their experience via a blog or infographic. After thinking through some options, Rediet and Ana decided to surprise us with a comic book on their definition of community engagement. Rediet and Ana show us how engaging artists and people outside our general network helps elevate the conversation of water, a conversation where everyone has a stake. 

The comic book depicts three lessons. Can you find them? Read it here.

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