Jodi Netzer

When performance and graphic artist Jodi Netzer moved to Tucson almost two years ago, it wasn't difficult for her to understand the importance of water in the desert. Netzer decided to use her experience in organizing and designing community events to create a water festival that brings together artists, performers, scientists, planners and activists to celebrate water. The result—The Water Project: Tucson's Synergistic Water Festival—will take place March 26-28. This event depends on community involvement in planning and performances. To get involved, visit www.waterprojectfestival.org.

How did you come up with this idea?

I tend to do projects that I'm really passionate about—projects of relevance to the time and place. So I came here from Philadelphia, and I started to think about what a project would look like here in Tucson. I have all this energy to do something, to work with the community and get to know the community. I identified water as an important issue to address here because of the lack of it, for one, but also water as a metaphor is a wonderful topic. It is a connective element that can bring community together. It's emotive ...that's how people realize that change is important. We can give out all the facts and figures and numbers we can, but it isn't until people understand the intrinsic value of water, or whatever topic, that change starts.

Do you see this being a one-time festival, or long-term?

Long-term. This is intended to be a festival that happens every year, and the festival dates were chosen because World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, is March 22. Some countries and cities expand on that to a week, and that's why we're doing the festival from March 26-28.

What kind of support have you received so far?

We've got several endorsements, including the United Nations Association of Southern Arizona. And I've been meeting with many organizations and city departments, bringing them together. ... Tucson Water is involved, as well as the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department. I'm presenting this as a cross-sector collaboration. I want to see artists at the table with scientists, engineers, water experts, city planners and investors, all working together on creative solutions.

How is the festival shaping up?

The first day is a film festival at the Screening Room; the second day is a big day of vendors and performance, created by community members. That will be in El Presidio Plaza, and there will be a costumed after-party, but we're still working out the details on the location. The following day is a water ritual at Sabino Canyon that will be cross-cultural and interfaith. After that, in another location, I'm going to teach a movement-theater workshop, and there's going to be a panel discussion on policy and a roundtable discussion on water issues. Then (also) on Sunday (are) the closing ceremonies.

There's a lot to do.

It's a very full program, and there are a lot of what I call access points. People who want the facts and figures can go to the panel discussion and see the films or the vendors. And people who want to go for the spectacle of it can see the performance and the art happenings. Maybe they'd be into the water ritual if that's their thing.

Why do you think you've been successful at getting all these groups together?

It starts with a simple call and asking around. I come at this being an artist, not knowing anything about water issues here, but I'm able to communicate the idea for the festival with passion.

This sounds like a Developing Festivals 101 class.

Here's the key: I think people are looking to the arts. ... Not all artists are into community arts, but there are some of us who really want to help.

How are you funding the festival?

We are working on our fundraising and sponsorship campaign. We definitely need help in paying for logistics and making this possible for years to come. ... This is a test year to see how it all turns out.

How else can people get involved?

There's a final brainstorm gathering on March 11, and there's still time for people to participate. We are having rehearsals for the production meetings to make puppets, costumes and props. ... I'd like to direct people to the Web site. It's a good place for people to get ideas depending on their skills and talents.

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