The hottest bar in Minneapolis doesn't serve your favorite fancy cocktail. It has something so much better — water.

You walk in and grab a seat at the bar. "What'll it be?" the bartender asks. That's when you notice that everybody else is sipping from poured "water flights" containing tap water from around the country. It's a bit odd and unexpected, but everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. "I guess I'll have what they're having," you reply.

Water Bar is changing how people think about their tap water. It's a place where you can sample tap water from different cities and, more importantly, engage in some smart conversation about sustainability.


All images via Works Progress/Vimeo.

In 2014, pop-up artists Shanai Matteson and Colin Kloecker launched water bar at Minneapolis' Works Progress studio.

They teamed up with arts organizers, scientific researchers, environmental advocates, educators, artists, and local residents to create a space where people can come together to learn more about the way water matters in their lives and communities.

"Tap water is a great way to do this because it's such a common thing, and our relationship to water says so much about what we value," Matteson said. "Bringing people together around that ordinary daily ritual, but within a space that invites them to have fun or play or use their senses of taste and smell means thinking intentionally about the relationships to systems that so many of us take for granted, at least until there's a crisis."

Since then, they've served local tap waters to more than 30,000 people during pop-up events in Arkansas, Illinois, Minnesota, and North Carolina.


So what kind of stuff might you learn at a Water Bar pop-up?

1. There are around 54,000 public water systems in the U.S., and each one unique in its own way.

As it turns out, the water you get from your tap might be a little different from what your friend who lives halfway across the country gets. That's due to the fact that there are roughly 54,000 public water systems.

That applies to about 300 million people, or 85% of the country's population. Each one of the 54,000 systems has certain things that make it stand out from the next — ranging from water source to purification and treatment methods. This is why water from one city might taste slightly different from another. It's on these differences that Water Bar hopes to educate the public.

Water draining into one of the country's 54,000 systems.

2. While the Flint water crisis put tap water back in the news, it's far from the only place facing quality issues.

"Flint is just one place in America where people are living with water crisis — water that's been polluted or isn't being treated properly or is unaffordable to people living on limited incomes," says Matteson.

"These have always been things we talk about at the Water Bar, but now I think we see more clearly just how important it is to understand the disparities between different places and communities."

3. Just 1% of the world's freshwater is safe for drinking — and that's why we need to work to protect it.

Nearly 70% of the world is covered by water. Nearly 98% of that is salt water. Of the fresh water, just 1% is accessible and safe for consumption. More than 780 million people around the world don't have access to clean water, and nearly 2.5 billion lack proper sanitation.

"Water connects all of us, but some communities are dealing with life-threatening and immediate water disasters. I think many of us are asking what that says about our priorities as a country and how we can steer things in a more humane and just direction."

With that in mind, its worth considering not only where our own water comes from and how it's processed, but what needs to happen to keep what precious little drinkable water on Earth exists available for consumption.

4. Water is a limited resource, and we can't necessarily just "make more of it."

"One basic thing most people don't realize is that drinking water comes from a place. Water isn't manufactured in a drinking water plant, we have get it from lakes or rivers or from underground, or we have to find ways to gather rainwater or recycle wastewater," Matteson says.

"Take a few minutes to find out where your water comes from. Our lives and the places we live depend on those water sources, which is a good reason to then ask what else we can learn about those sources and what we might do individually and collectively to protect or improve them."

The team behind Water Bar is hoping to expand things a bit in their new studio too.

So far, Matteson and Kloecker have done a fine job creating a social space centered around the act of drinking and learning more about water. At their new public studio, they're hoping to develop what Matteson calls a "sustainability incubator" — that is, a space where people can use art and design to amplify important messages about the environment.

"Water connects all of us, but some communities are dealing with life-threatening and immediate water disasters. I think many of us are asking what that says about our priorities as a country, and how we can steer things in a more humane and just direction."


To learn more about Water Bar (and find out when a pop-up event is headed your way), visit its website or check out this video from Works Progress studio.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

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