Diana Berger Gallery brings awareness to critical water issues

‘Along The Colorado’ combines art and science in a powerful exhibition


Eddie Ursua

The collaborative artists featured in “Along The Colorado” utilize a variety of artistic formats to deliver their message.

“Along The Colorado” is an exhibit that raises awareness towards the increasing scarcity of water in the Colorado River. The collective artwork was on display at the Diana Berger Gallery (DBG) in building 1B/C-10 from Nov. 3 to Dec. 8 at Mt. SAC.

The United States Bureau of Reclamation announced the first official shortage declaration for the Colorado River on Aug. 16, 2021, and this important revelation was put into the spotlight at the DBG.

“Paradox of Value” by sculptor Jess Benjamin. (Eddie Ursua)

The historic water news is the backbone of the group exhibition “Along The Colorado,” curated by Sapira Cheuk, which brought together the work from multiple artists and contributors to depict how life is changing in various aspects for those along the river.

This group exhibition stopped at Mt. SAC where the exhibition showcased multiple formats of artwork that solely focused on the water issues happening in the seven states along the Colorado River. The issues this exhibit highlighted are factors such as usage, scarcity, conservation and many other realities this shortage impacts.

“A Crowning Achievement: Hoover Dam 1 & Hoover Dam 3” by sculptor Jess Benjamin. (Eddie Ursua)

Gallery Director Phoebe Millerwhite said, “It is all artists and scientists who live in states surrounding the Colorado River, so it gives all of their different interpretations of climate change and the problems we are having with water shortages.”

Upon arrival, attention is quickly drawn to two sculptures, titled “A Crowning Achievement,” from artist Jess Benjamin near the center of the room which almost appear to be ornamental decorations that belong atop an 18th century castle.

Although, when you discover what these ceramic sculptures actually depict, the truth is quite eye-opening.

“Those are the tops of the water towers at the Hoover Dam, the tops were made to be decorative because they thought that’s all that would be seen, and the bottom was only made to be functional,” Millerwhite said. She continued on to describe how this is a visual reminder of how developers in the past assumed water would always be abundant and overlooked the importance of water usage’s sustainability.

Another piece that encapsulates life along the river in real time is a large series of drone photographs that cover an entire wall of the gallery from floor to ceiling.

Artist and photographer Alexander Heilner uses drone photography to capture what river life looks like in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. (Eddie Ursua)

Artist and photographer Alexander Heilner uses his creative eye to depict the harsh and real effects that climate change is having on our surroundings and daily life.

“[The drone photographs] are going all the way up the wall and are a big visual impactful moment of the show,” Millerwhite said.

With artwork ranging from sculptures and oil on canvas to drone photography and video collage, “Along The Colorado” truly drove home the importance of this water issue within the community in an artistic and entertaining format.

Although the touring exhibit has finished its short run at Mt. SAC, the tour will continue onwards to Vision Gallery in Chandler, Arizona from Mar. 17, till May 27, 2023, with the same goal of raising awareness on this critical issue.

Harboring a space to highlight important issues within the community and fostering diversity is something that the DBG has continually aimed to achieve.

“Make Mead” by artist and photographer Sean Russel. (Eddie Ursua)

Mt. SAC’s art gallery has been a part of the campus since the gallery’s inception in 1954. Today, the gallery regularly provides a broader platform for artists and curators to showcase artwork to students and the community as a whole.

On March 2, the DBG plans to showcase the work of artist and sculptor Roberto Benavidez as the gallery opens back up during the spring semester. This upcoming solo exhibit will focus on the pinata form that Benavidez is renowned for. Millerwhite gave an inside scoop that the DBG is also in collaboration with Mt. SAC’s animation department to create a unique virtual reality experience that will bring these vibrant colorful creations further to life.

The gallery highly encourages both students and the public to visit as exhibition showings are always free. To stay up to date with what the DBG is doing on campus visit the campus galleries website or join the mailing list.