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Dec. 18, 2008
Contact: Erin Curtis-Dierks, School of Fine Arts, (785) 864-9742.

Just add water: Campus fountain becomes public art piece

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas art student has turned the Chi Omega Fountain into a public art display to draw attention to the use of bottled water in the United States and on campus.

“Frozen Assets” was created by Matthew Farley, a senior from Wichita majoring in sculpture, and incorporates arcs made from about 1,000 empty water bottles — less than the number of bottles collected each week on campus by KU Recycling. Farley’s work examines the connection between the ways Americans view and use water in their everyday lives.

“There was a time when public fountains were a source of water for the citizens and their animals that came to them. These days, we insist that water come to us,” Farley said. “This convenience, however, comes at a considerable cost. When buying bottled water at $1 per 20-ounce bottle, the cost comes to $6.40 per gallon. The toll on the environment is substantial as well, considering that eight out of 10 bottles end up in a landfill.”

Farley created the artwork for a special topics class in public art taught by John Hachmeister, associate professor of sculpture. During the semester, he researched water usage and recycling in preparation for the project.

“In 2007, KU students purchased 437,000 bottles of water on campus. That is enough plastic bottles to fill two KU on Wheels buses,” Farley said.

“Frozen Assets” was sponsored in part by EcoUsable Inc., a creator of stainless steel water bottles. The company’s mission is to give back to the community and bring attention to the effects of plastic in oceans and the environment. Farley also worked with KU Recycling, which has a mission to increase awareness of the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling on campus. Since 1992, KU Recycling has diverted more than 5,396 tons of recyclable material from the waste stream.

Farley chose the Chi Omega Fountain for his art installation because of its rich history as a campus landmark as well as its high visibility. The fountain sits at the west end of Jayhawk Boulevard and was dedicated April 23, 1955.

“Frozen Assets” will remain on display through January.

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