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Inaugural festival to celebrate water

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe’s first Water is Life festival at the Botanical Garden will honor the value of preserving water by combining arts and education.

Saturday’s free event, which is expected to bring in 300 guests of all ages, will begin with a procession of women and children bringing water gathered from the Santa Fe River at Patrick Smith Park. They will sing and chant as they carry the water into the garden’s amphitheater for all participants to share.

Throughout the evening, there will be interactive art pieces that the community can help create as well as performances of dance, music, spoken word and poetry.

To educate people on the importance of water, several groups, including the City of Santa Fe’s Water Conservation Division and the Santa Fe Sierra Club, are donating time and setting up booths for people to visit and learn more about how to conserve and properly use water.

The River Runs Through Us art collective, pictured here and run by Water is Life producer Bobbe Besold, will begin Saturday’s festival. (Photo by Alicia Recountre-Da Silva)

Water is Life began as a way to celebrate the annual Global Water Dances celebration, a worldwide event among dancers to advocate for safe water for everyone. Rulan Tangen, one of the event producers and founding director and choreographer for the Dancing Earth company, said it was a natural progression to include not just dance, but other educational and artistic elements.

“We’re looking at a community and generation (where) there’s fewer people looking for one thing,” said Tangen, who’s also a member of the New Mexico Dance Coalition, one of the sponsors of the festival. “They’re looking for an immersive experience.”

Mollie Parsons, education director for the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, said the event was something the gardens wanted to donate their location for because it fits their mission of celebrating the arts as well as providing the public with educational experiences.

Depending on this year’s success, it could be something they could offer annually, Parsons said.

“Water is one of our real challenges here (in Northern New Mexico),” Parsons said. “Instead of taking if for granted, we feel like it’s an important resource to understand and celebrate.”

Tangen, who produced the festival along with local artists Alicia Rencountre-Da Silva and Bobbe Besold, said she wants people to leave feeling connected to their community, particularly in a political climate where she says people are being threatened and divided.

“Water is one thing that can unite us,” she said. “The messaging is coming together as a community in diversity.”

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