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What is the Sound of the River? Art + Science + Civic Engagement

Presentation by artist & hydrologist Don Wilkison

We’ll be joined by artist, scientist and organizer Don Wilkison to explore interconnected boundaries and overlaps between nature, art, science and culture.

Don Wilkison's "Tiny Houses" at the Confluence of the Kansas & Missouri Rivers in Kansas City.

Time and Place

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
7:00 pm

Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro
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Presentation by  artist and hydrologist Don Wilkison

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019

NOTE – This month’s presentation is the THIRD Tuesday of the month. In October, we’ll return to our normal second Tuesday schedule. 

The Bistro Restaurant is now closed on Tuesday, but the bar will be open. You ARE welcome to come early, bring some food and gather with friends before the presentation. Speaker Series attendees are welcome after 5:30 p.m. 

Hosted by Missouri River Relief

Don Wilkison, an interdisciplinary artist working as m.o.i. aka The Minister of Information, tells visual art river stories. He will discuss how two decades of research on water-quality issues informs his work as an artist and organizer through describing recent projects in St. Louis, Kansas City and Arkansas. “As scientists we have a pretty specific language. As artists we have a language that is similar but different. We are looking at the same environment through different lenses”, he said. 

A recent project, which will debut at the Missouri History Museum’s Mississippi River exhibit this November, is called “Cloud of Joy: What is the Sound of the Mississippi River?”. It’s a perfect example of how Don takes his scientific background to find engaging ways to answer questions the general public wants to know.

Another project, called “Perpetual Motion”, was finding theatrical and visual ways to engage a neighborhood in the development of “Smart Sewer” green infrastructure that the public just envisioned as a park. “The challenge was…how do we activate this public space in a way that is meaningful to people but also that talks about the engineering purpose in a creative and fun way?” Don explained.

As much civil servant as artist, Don Wilkison’s work is informed by his scientist’s background. As m.o.i. aka The Minister of Information, his art practice is rooted in active experimentation. He varied methods of inquiry are dictated by the question at hand; media-based methods—photography and film—being information rich, are frequently utilized. His civic engagements and sculptural installations lie at the intersection of middle-class economics, progressive politics, and environmental science. Bridges between direct interactions and tangible materials offer connections to deeper, underlying metaphorical implications of the work. The metaphor, rather than the medium, is the message.


  • 14020 W. Hwy BB, Rocheport, MO
  • Take I-70 to the Rocheport, MO, exit (Exit #115). It’s the first exit east of the Missouri River.
  • Head north toward Rocheport.
  • After about a mile, turn left at the sign for Les Bourgeois Bistro. Follow the signs to the Bistro. You will probably need to park in the lot above the Bistro and walk the trail down.
  • The presentations are held in upstairs in the restaurant. The restaurant is no longer open on Tuesdays but the bar is! You are welcome to bring your own food or snacks.

Resources & Links

The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport

is hosted by these wonderful partners.

Click here for a list of upcoming presentations»

Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!

And a special tip of the hat to volunteer David Owens who has been doing the sound for the Speaker Series for several years.

Our thanks to Dave and the good people of MoRivCC who are video recording these presentations when possible.

The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place monthly in Kansas City and St. Charles.

The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public.