Volume 75, Number 47 | April 12 - 18 2006

Villager photo by Elisabeth Robert

Asher Shomrone, founder of The Home of Water on W. 23rd St., a museum fostering awareness of water’s importance.

Chelsea native pours passion for water into museum

By Albert Amateau

A new museum was hatched last month in the West Chelsea gallery district with the formal opening of the New York Museum of Water.

Born of the aqueous vision and persuasive ability of a 36-year-old well-traveled Chelsea native, the prototype museum opened on March 22 in two renovated floors of a four-story loft building at 525 W. 23rd St. west of the High Line.

“This is actually The Home of Water, the seed of a big museum that we hope will blossom in Times Square or maybe even Governors Island,” said Asher Shomrone, founder and guiding spirit of the home of water dedicated to promoting knowledge about the world “through the lens of water.”

It didn’t take long for a visitor from The Villager to be drenched by facts, figures and lore about water at an interview a few days before the formal opening from noon to midnight when about 700 people dropped in during the eight-hour period, according to Shomrone’s estimate.

“Seventy percent of the world is water but only 1 percent is fresh water and over half of that water in the past 35 years has been polluted,” said Shomrone, adding, “World population has grown by nearly 70 percent in the past 35 years.”

Shomrone himself is responsible in a small way for the world population growth, being the father twin 6-year-old daughters. He began looking at water in a new way when he was gardening about five years ago and found that he could make and manipulate rainbows with water from garden hoses.

“I began taking it seriously,” he said. “I made rainbows for a friend’s wedding and started to research the history of water.”

Serious fun is one of Shomrone’s characteristics. The March 22 event — which coincided with the United Nations World Water Day — featured water-related art and interactive displays from several West Chelsea galleries. A unique installation was a 4-foot-long, 1-foot-high and 2-foot-wide device made in Finland that breaks water into a thick mist of droplets so fine that visitors can walk through without getting wet.

The device, Fogscreen, a permanent feature of the museum on W. 23rd St., creates a mist so dense and stable that it can be used as a screen on which to project images.

Getting the exhibit together and reconstructing the two floors of the loft took nearly two years and several dozen friends and volunteers.

“They weren’t all working at the same time. Sometimes we had five and sometimes as many as 10 people,” he explained.

Raised in the Hotel Chelsea, where he parents still live, Shomrone went to Bronx High School of Science, and later attended Bard College near Rhinebeck, N.Y.

“I learned to love the Hudson River,” he recalled.

After taking courses that included neuroscience and dance, he left Bard after two years and lit out for the territories, including a stint in Hawaii working with dolphins.

His water knowledge came from various sources, the main one being the International Water History Association, organized by scientists and water officials in 2001. Last December he went to an I.W.H.A. conference in Paris.

“This information is so exciting that when I talk to some people I sense their response, ‘This guy is going zonkers.’ But about two years ago I was talking about my ideas for a water museum with a friend of mine who works for an N.G.O. [nongovernmental organization] at the U.N. and she said, ‘Do it.’ So I put out some ads and e-mails and got 300 responses in two years,” Shomrone recalled. “I had to figure out how to run a team of volunteers and how to raise funds.”

Shomrone has inspired a lot of interest in his Home of Water - New York Museum of Water project and has earned the sponsorship and support of several water conservation groups. The museum has become an affiliated project of The I-Blue Water Foundation, a nonprofit group eligible for tax-deductible contributions under 501 C 3. World Water Rescue Foundation and its founder Philip Sauers are also among the supporters.
“We intend to announce the creation of the world’s most comprehensive database on the subject of water available to the public,” Shomrone promised.

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