Water Over Tea



Enjoy these prompts for reconnecting, and join Gus for a conversation about ritual and water on Instagram Live at 12:30 pm on May 1. Gus will be joined in conversation by friend of the Teen Creative Agency, Miguel.

Featured images

One square photograph of a swamp-like environment is shown above a second square with a paragraph of text titled “Ebo Landing” and a third square with another photograph of a swamp-like environment, all aligned vertically.
Carrie Mae Weems, American, b. 1953
Ebo Landing from the Sea Islands series, 1992
Gelatin silver prints and text panel
Three parts, each framed: 21 × 21 in. (53.3 × 53.3 cm)
Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift from The Howard and Donna Stone Collection, 2002.67.a-c

Photo: Michal Raz-Russo, © MCA Chicago


In its tranquility water cleanses; in its turmoil it consumes. TCA Apprentice Gus Fuentes explores tea-making as a meditative ritual and offers prompts for reflection and self-care inspired by the Water After All exhibition.


Water connects us.

In isolating ourselves as an act of care for our neighbors, we are reminded of our fundamental interconnectedness, and as we face a disease that disproportionately attacks our elders, we are called to remember and honor our ancestors. Before the galleries closed to the public, TCA Apprentice and artist Gus Fuentes took time in the Water After All exhibition to find inspiration for reflection and remembering.

Get inspired.

Water is haunted by human memories. The MCA's Water After All exhibition explored many facets of our relationship with water from bloody histories of colonialism and slavery, to trade, travel, industry, and pollution.

Take a look at Carrie Mae Weems's Ebo Landing From The Sea Islands. Zoom in and look closely at the three panels—two landscapes and a story. Imagine standing among the palm trees in the photographs and hearing the chant on the sea breeze "The water brought us; the water will take us away." Reflect on how this artwork makes you feel. Where is there sadness in this story? Pain? Strength? Power?

Create your own ritual for reconnecting.


  • 4–8 different spices, each representing a person who keeps you grounded
  • Water
  • Teapot or water heater


  1. Reflect on four to eight people who keep you grounded. These can be living family and friends or ancestors or historical figures that inspire you.
  2. For each person, select one spice that reminds you of that person. You can use any spice. Some suggestions include: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, black paper, black tea, and green tea
  3. Begin boiling water.
  4. Select your first spice. Close your eyes and picture the person this spice reminds you of. Think of that person. Maybe tell a story about them or sing their favorite song. Measure out a small amount of their spice and place it in a teacup.
  5. Repeat step 4 for each remaining spice.
  6. Pour boiling water over the spices in your cup.
  7. Let the steam wash over your whole face. Take several deep breaths. Notice how the spices mix together. Notice what memories are brought up.
  8. Drink your tea. Write or draw any memories or feelings that come up as you drink.



about the artist

About the Artists

Gus Fuentes is a Latinx seamstress from the East Side of Chicago. Fuentes has worked in the MCA Learning Department as a Family Day Assistant, TCA Apprentice, and as a member of the Teen Creative Agency. His favorite pastime is finding stray animals and bringing them home. He currently has four cats and two dogs, but at one point had five cats and three dogs. While the cats do not create a good environment for his practice of creating fiber art, at this point he feels like it's part of the process.

Miguel is a Chicago-based visual artist and educator. Interested in interdisciplinary perspectives on urban youth, Latindad, and environmental justice, notions of memory, trauma, and decoloniality are of valuable consideration for Miguel. His work in photography and printmaking often includes the depictions and narratives of Latinx immigration, Xicanx practice, and familial history. To do so, he employs methods of portraiture, documentation, and contemporary archive, using imagery as a vehicle to address the dynamism of Latinx/Xicanx, experience. In producing these images, Miguel wishes to bring visibility to underrepresented communities as well as using his practice as a means for collective healing.

Youth-led programs highlight Chicago artists under 21 years old and are organized by Teen Creative Agency Apprentices, along with Grace Needlman, Manager of Youth and Family Programs.


Activity by Gus Fuentes Text by Grace Needlman