Mott Community College student’s Flint water crisis artwork gains attention on Facebook

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FLINT, MI – The assignment was simple. Create a piece of art focused on a cause or an issue.

But the issue that Kawatha Tobias, an art student at Mott Community College, chose is one she lives every day – the Flint water crisis.

“There was a long list of different things I could have chosen from but being a Flint resident I thought I ought to do what I deal with on a daily basis,” said Tobias.

She used a combination of wax, wire and plastic to create the project and named it “The Big Mess.”

“I made a mess with the wax and at the bottom there’s a pool of wax and it looks like a big mess,” Tobias said. “That’s what this water thing is, a big mess.”

She posted the project on Facebook in April and people began to share it on personal pages and in Facebook groups.

“I usually post my projects when I do something that I feel good about,” Tobias, 39, said. “My hugest support are my friends and family and that’s all I expected. This one took off like wild fire for me.”

Before Tobias knew it the project had gained hundreds of shares and likes. People had shared screen shots of the project on pages and in groups before Tobias had turned the final project in to her professor.

Kawatha Tobias

“I was on Facebook and saw it posted to the Flint Water Scandal group page,” said Jjenna Andrews, Tobias’ art professor. “I was shocked to see it to begin with. I had shown her how to use the wax and had seen it in process, but it wasn’t to this level of completion last I saw it. I then read her experiences she described with the image, which added layers of meaning to the piece, which was already a very strong and powerful piece.”

Students were required to create a three-dimensional project as a sculpture or 3D artwork piece to address issues based on research for Social Engaged Art portion of Andrews’ Three Dimensional Art course. They also had to write a short paper describing their research.

“I live the water crisis every day,” Tobias said. “I don’t care what city or state I live in I probably will never want to drink tap water again. The one thing that stands out the most is there’s no amount that’s safe and the effects of lead are irreversible. There’s no cure for lead poisoning. Just being a parent, it raises concerns and it just makes your reality hell.”

Tobias received extra credit for her project for putting it on display on Facebook.

“The extra credit opportunity was if they installed the artwork in a public place that was appropriate to the issue,” Andrews said. “In this case posting it to the Flint Water Scandal FB page was very appropriate and really got much more attention and exposure than of she took it somewhere on campus or down town. Yes, she received the extra credit points for posting it.”

Tobias’ project is on display in the Visual Arts & Design Center on Mott’s campus.

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