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An Exploration of Tuscaloosa's Waterways: Exhibition Recap

Updated: May 29, 2023

A true celebration of Tuscaloosa's waterways is on display at Kentuck's campus from March 2 to April 30, 2023. This exhibition follows the overarching theme of this year's exhibition season, The Ties That Bind, which focuses on connection—how artists honor their past, how art can build a common experience, and how our environment links its inhabitants together. An Exploration of Tuscaloosa's Waterways spans all three of the campus galleries and features 27 different artists, most of which reside in Alabama.

This lively display is brimming with art and information about the Black Warrior River and surrounding waterways. Kentuck has partnered with the Alabama Water Institute at The University of Alabama to bring awareness to the local waterways while combining the works of artists alongside educational components. Water seeps into almost every part of our lives, including the artwork we create.

In fact, the history of this area cannot ignore the power of our local waterways. Water has been driving force for development in Tuscaloosa throughout our history. In 1827, the site for the University of Alabama was selected due to the location of Marr’s Spring, which was the primary water source for the University from its opening in 1831 into the 1900s. In the 1890s, a series of locks and dams installed on the Black Warrior River improved the navigation between the Appalachian Highlands and the Gulf Coastal Plain, which stimulated Tuscaloosa’s and Northport’s economies and led to the development of mining industries in the area. Tuscaloosa’s waterways can be credited with economic development, life-giving resources, and quality of life opportunities.

Each artist in this exhibition explores what Tuscaloosa's waterways mean to them. From turned wood pieces created from trees blown down during the 2011 tornado to sculptures made from clay dug by the artist herself, these pieces work together to share how varied and uniting our experiences with our local waterways can be. As the viewer walks through the gallery, they will notice the artists tell their stories on the exhibition labels alongside their pieces. Some stories share about moments that have shaped their lives, like Ashley Bond, who writes about her piece titled Where We Began, "The Black Warrior flows through so many of the most meaningful moments of my time in Tuscaloosa. My first professional job overlooked the Black Warrior, which led to me meeting my now husband who worked down the street across from the same river. From late afternoon strolls along the Riverwalk with Edward and our dogs to admiring twinkling Christmas trees with my mom, the river has served as a backdrop through a large chapter of both my personal and professional life. Here in the fading light, two tugs moored on the far bank wait for their next job—a still moment in the flow of goods and people that has helped define the story of Tuscaloosa for centuries."

Some artists share about how the beauty of our local waterways serves as their inspiration. Cathy Fussell wrote about her piece Bankhead Lake on the Black Warrior River, “My map quilts are intended as a celebration of the natural landscape of our region and beyond... Sometimes I’m drawn to a specific place because of its historical significance. But more often, as in this case with Bankhead Lake on the Black Warrior, I’m drawn to this specific place simply because of its beauty – the composition, the curves, the complexity.”

Carrie Donaldson wants the viewer to imagine being by the water. She writes, "I want you to feel connected to this piece by recognizing the imagery, but by also feeling the movement of the birds flying or the breeze touching your cheek. The goal is to imagine yourself, down by the Black Warrior River, waiting for the train to cross." In fact, Celeste Amparo Pfau's installation piece, Riparian Reflection, truly immerses the visitor in botanical prints from the Black Warrior River watershed.

An Exploration of Tuscaloosa's Waterways delivers to the viewer a sense of awareness and pride for the area we call home. We strongly advise visiting this exhibition in person, but, if you are unable to, please check out the galleries below.

Exhibiting Artists are:

Ashley Bond

Maurice Clabaugh

Steve Davis

Hayes Dobbins

Carrie Donaldson

Ann Foster

Cathy Fussell

Jasmine Hocutt

Deborah Hughes

Kelly Lambert

Amy LeePard

Janet Mego

Melanie O’Keefe

David Patterson

Celeste Pfau

Lydia Randolph

Kelly Shannon

DeeDee Smith

Amy Smoot

Scott Stephens

Nathaniel Trost

Rachel Wakefield

Evan Wilson (on loan from the Collection of Jennifer and Mike McCracken)

Tuscaloosa Bicentennial Quilt Artists:

Yvonne Wells, Becky Booker, Amy Echols, Sharron Rudowski, Tonya Tidline

An Exploration of Tuscaloosa's Waterways will be on view in Kentuck's Museum Gallery until April 30, 2023. We encourage you to visit this show in person during our open hours of Monday-Friday, 9:30am-5:30pm and Saturday-Sunday, 12pm-4pm.

Did you know?

  • 10% of the nation’s water flows through Alabama! Alabama is ranked #1 in the United States for freshwater aquatic biodiversity.

  • The Black Warrior River contains 16,145.89 miles of mapped streams. Its watershed covers 6,276 square miles and touches 17 counties. It is the largest river system contained entirely in Alabama.

  • Alabama is home to more than 300 freshwater species of fish. The Black Warrior River is home to 127 of these species, 4 of which are endangered.

Available Work:

Unavailable Work:

VIDEO: March Art Night, Courtesy Alabama Water Institute


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