Look Up! Water, Art Coming to a NYC Rooftop Near You

Look up! I’ll bet your first thought isn’t “water,” but if you’re in New York City this fall, it might be. New York City-born artist and filmmaker Mary Jordan has a new project designed to draw attention to water using one of the city’s most beloved and iconic structures – the rooftop water tank. New York City has over 17,000 water tanks, or what Jordan refers to as symbols of “water abundance,” and many are visible from the street, so why not wrap them in artwork about water? (So meta!)

Jordan got the idea for the project while filming a documentary in a remote village in Ethiopia, where she got a water-borne parasite and became ill. The women who nursed her back to health asked her to educate people about Ethiopia’s challenges with poor water quality and availability. When she returned to the city, Jordan created the Water Tank Project.

In the US, abundant, clean water is a luxury that we generally take for granted, but worldwide, over 1 billion people don’t have access to it. Many people, most often women and girls, walk for hours each day to get water to meet their families’ basic needs. The journey is often dangerous and the water is often of poor quality, as Jordan found out first hand. “We can no longer be seen and viewed as indulgent with something one in five people lack,” she says. “We need to work collectively to help each other and make the right decision in our everyday life to not abuse something that is now so precious.”

Jordan is using the tanks to raise awareness about the water crisis. Over 100 artists have submitted artwork to be turned into tank wraps. She chose tank locations based on their visibility. “Looking up, being touched by open space, landscape, landmarks and the great urban landscape…last time New Yorkers looked up…it was not pleasant. Now look up and do something positive. Be inspired and moved,” says Jordan, adding, “Here are things that can help: eat less meat, reduce plastic waste, drink New York’s great tap water, conserve, protect and take action in any way you can. Fight for your rights and others’.”

If you want to check out the tanks for yourself (there’s a map showing all the locations on the project’s website) Jordan recommends you bring a reusable water bottle, invite a friend and “make one promise to do something on water.” We recommend a bike tour as a great way of getting from tank to tank in a relatively easy manner.


The first five wrapped tanks are shown in the slideshow above. Artists include:

Sigrid Calon (530 West 25th Street, best viewed from W. 25th St. just east of 11th Ave.)

Lorenzo Petrantoni (393 W. Broadway, best viewed in front of 400 W. Broadway)

Laurie Simmons and Odili Donald Odita (best viewed from W. 25th St. access to Highline Park)

Laurie Simmons (525 West 28th Street, best viewed from W. 25th St. access to Highline Park)

Odili Donald Odita (282 11th Avenue, best viewed from W. 25th St. access to Highline Park)

Tessa Traeger (110 Fulton St., best viewed from Fulton and Nassau)