University of Arizona School of Art alumna Alexandra (Alex!) Jimenez (BFA ’14, Visual Communications) was selected by Tucson community leaders to partner with Tucson Water as part of the US Water Alliance’s program that addresses local water and climate issues.
Tucson Water was one of four utilities across the nation selected to participate in the initiative, Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator, that creates arts-water partnerships in communities committed to working together to tackle these issues.
In a competitive process, Tucson Water was chosen along with Central Arkansas Water, Philadelphia Water Department, and Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District. For approximately six months, participants in the accelerator will connect with peer utilities and partner artists to learn and inform the work as it progresses.
Through the summer of 2021, Jimenez will partner with a small team from Tucson Water’s Public Information and Conservation Office applying her knowledge and practice of art, culture, and creativity to develop new cultural strategies for improving community engagement and building public trust around the topic of water.
“I am delighted that an alumna from our School of Art has been chosen for this innovative project, which recognizes the ‘value added’ when artists are engaged in the civic arena,” said Andrew Schulz, vice president for the arts at the University of Arizona.
“We continue to grapple with ‘grand challenges’ — of which water security and sustainability is a prime example — incorporating the expertise of creatives fundamentally changes the questions that are asked and the answers that are found, leading to impactful outcomes not possible otherwise.”
Jimenez, a Chicana artist, is a printmaker, illustrator and graphic designer born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Her familial history in Tucson – five generations – has grounded her work and given her a strong sense of place. She uses photography, illustration, printmaking and design to create works of art that speak to her heritage and sense of community.
Prior to earning her degree at the School of Art, Jimenez earned a degree in Animal Sciences from Cornell. She says that her love of discovery and exploration led her to her passion for solving a problem through visual communications. The combination of her scientific and artistic training continues to influence her work.
“When I got into the School of Art I discovered that some of the processes are very similar between scientific exploration and visual communications,” she said. “You’re asking questions and solving problems. As an artist you can completely create whatever you need to solve the riddle. I think that freedom is what makes creative thinkers valuable to have on teams. We approach things from a sort of tinkering method and then also from a process method.”
She is looking forward to working with Tucson Water to build trust and bridges to communities, first by listening and asking about their connection to water.
“I’m an artist who not only is from the southside, I grew up in the community most effected by water contamination in the past. It is an issue that is close to my heart. This project aligns with my ethics as an artist and aligns with my passion, which is my community and the southside.”
Jimenez has been deeply involved in the communities of Southern Arizona.
- Received the Research and Development grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts to pursue her typographical alphabet book, Abecedario del Sur in 2015 (pictured). The book collected the letters of the alphabet from the hand-painted signs of buildings in the southside of Tucson.
- Created an interactive mural, The Talking Mural, with the New Works Grant from the Arts Foundation of Southern Arizona in 2016.
- Attended the 2017 National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Leadership Institute, broadening her community of Latinx artists.
- Assisted the City of Douglas through a two-year long training, “Creative Communities Institute,” administered by the Arizona Commission on the Arts in 2018.
Tucson Water seeks to engage more deeply, broadly and meaningfully with the community in terms of how it values, discusses, and stewards water. Cities and neighborhoods need creative thinking and problem-solving, especially when facing challenges formed by historic mistrust or a lack of common vocabulary. Artists and cultural contributors have practical and creative skills that can draw people and attention to an issue or place to facilitate engagement, education, understanding and reconciliation. The Water, Arts, and Culture Accelerator leverages the resources of the US Water Alliance by creating a forum and structure for the utilities to exchange knowledge and develop best practices. In addition, the Alliance will provide $20,000 in resources to support an artist/culture bearer in each of the four communities.
For millennia, water has played a central role in the history and identity of people in our region. This connection is particularly rich among communities in what is now Tucson’s near west and south sides, home to the Santa Cruz River, the region’s first human settlement at Cuk Son, and the earliest instances of irrigated agriculture in North America. This project will be designed to build agency and equity among partners and stakeholders such as residents, businesses, utility staff, and policy makers who live and work in this area.