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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.


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.
Water Over Tea video still



Gus Fuentes: Hello. Thank you for joining my chai tea mixing ritual. My name is Gus Fuentes. At the MCA, I'm a TCA Apprentice and I work at Admissions, but my I practice, I'm just an artist, a photographer, a fiber based artist. I like to make tea as well. My intention with this, it's really, it's threefold. So I want to first and foremost, just kind of ground everyone in this current moment. Time will heal all wounds. Sit down, have a cup of chai tea. Everything will be alright.

And just kind of also to remember the not so distant past and what is not too far in the future. And this again, will pass. And so through memories, through storytelling, through tribute, I want to just bring back good memories and good times and have everyone looking forward to the future.

Also, if all this is of interest to you, I’m holding an Instagram live session on the Teen Creative Agency’s Instagram at twelve thirty on May 1st. And we’re going to just be talking about paying tribute and memories and just a kind of talking about quarantine and just our experience with that. So please join me at 12:30 on May 1st.

So all the spices we have right here. This is cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cardamom. So for right now, I’m going to do a tribute to my grandparents and I’m going to use these two spices in the front.

Don de Hojas y Mujer de Navajas

Me cuentan de alacranes debajo pierdas y de brincando de ventanas

Esto es pa las manos que nunca les quedaron anios y pa el basement que siempre tendra niños

Don of leaves and Woman of razors

You tell me stories about scorpions under rocks and jumping from windows

This is for the hands that could never fit rings and for the basement that shall always have kids.

So basically what it was talking about is my grandparents. And basically these two stories that used to tell me. One is about how they used to go out and look for scorpions under rocks and how would that is basically lake tempting fate. And they’re like, don’t go looking for a scorpion under a rock because you’ll find a scorpion under a rock, so like don’t go trying your fate because you’ll get got. This is something I still carry with me. Honestly, they just don’t, just be cautious. Basically, in the last part of the poem is talking about their house and how there’s just always people over there. It’s so lively. And that’s something that I want to keep alive.

So like most students out here in Chicago, you know, trying to make it, I work three jobs. I work at MCA, like I said, but I also work at Chipotle. And at Chipotle, so that’s like my 9:00 to 5:00, but it’s not nine-to-five. It’s like 6 a.m. to 2 or 3. So getting up at 4:00 for work and seeing my coworkers every single morning like you build a report with these people. And I haven’t seen my coworkers, prep team, in like a month. I need to pay tribute to them. So a tribute to Cherice and Mikael. This is cloves for Cherice and nutmeg from Mikael.

To the layers of skin we rubbed away again and again until they were blisters that we then busted for callous

To our hunched backs and noisy wrists

To sweating in everyone’s guac and having our labor alienated

So these next two spices are going to be for individual people instead of like two people at a time like I’ve been doing it.

So this one is from my friend Mandy. Me and Mandy’s friendship, we go far back , likevsix years ago, we’ve been friends. Every time we get together, it’s not often that we get to hang out. So whenever we do, it’s kind of just like we’re catching up and after we catch up, we’ve been so comfortable with each other that it is kind of like everything we have bottled up just starts coming out, and it can get kind of deep and kind of emotional.

So the intro to Miracle says "Everything's going to fall right into place, if we only had a way to make it all fall faster every day. If only time flew like a dove, faster than I'm falling in love." That's basically like how all of me Mandy, that's the only advice that we can give to each other. Like it's gonna get better with time. Time heals all wounds and it's just there's nothing really else to say. In some situations other than other than those lyrics. But also that last part faster than I'm falling in love, like time has to move faster and I'm falling in love. I think that really resonates with me and Mandy's friendship because like a lot of the time are, if one of us is in love, our friendship tends to suffer and it tends to not be as strong as it is. So this is also a tribute to all those friendships that suffer and and feel the strain of the other person in the friendship having a significant other.

The last spice I’m going to use today today is ginger, and then that’s going to complete my chai tea mix. I might add some matcha because this is a very spicy mix and matcha will kind of, ground green tea will kind of just like bring a base to all of it. But this is ginger and it’s a tribute to my friend Logan. He was the first person I thought of. I miss hanging out with him so much. He is such a grounding presence in my life. Like I said, I worked two jobs and I’m a student, so it’s like I can just get really caught up in like the flow of life. He always reminds me to stop and smell the flowers, you know, he always reminds me that it’s not about just making money. And I just think like that’s just. Obviously it’s not just about making money. And there’s so much more stuff. But Logan just reminds me of the simple things. You know, again, like it’s very seldom that I see him because we’re both working and we’re both just trying to get by. So it’s like once a month that I get to see my best friend. So this is a tribute to Logan.

And that concludes our chai tea mixing ritual. So now the way that I’m going to mix this is I’m going to move this and just kind of sift everything to the center. And yeah, I’ll just get this mixed a little bit better and put it in a Mason jar because like, obviously this is too much for one cup of tea. Just to keep her fresh, I want to keep it airtight. There’s lots of ways to actually get this into making tea. Probably the easiest is to put a tablespoon of your mix into a mug and then put boiling water into it. Then you can also use a French press. And there’s also like individual coffee, an individual tea holders that will pinch up the spices for you. But like I said, the easiest is probably just tablespoon and then don’t drink all the way to the bottom, so you don’t start drinking all the spices. And before I go, once again, I’m holding an Instagram Live session on the TCA Instagram, 12:30 on May 1st. And yeah, we’re just going to be talking about this tribute, talking about memories, quarantine. We’ll probably have our favorite books, what we’ve been reading. Yeah, come hang out out 12:30 May 1st. See you there.

Water Over Tea Zine

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