During Earth Month 2014, Reach Studios in Lancing Michigan contacted the university sustainability staff about our successful storm drain murals project. They are seeking to do a similar project in Michigan, and requested our advice. Eliana Brow
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Storm Drain Murals (Completed)
Drawing attention to stormwater – literally – is a current goal of F&S Environmental Compliance (EC). EC, which manages the university’s stormwater program, along with a number of community organizations, has recruited 12 artists to paint themed murals near storm drain inlets to call attention to the potential hazards of what washes down our drains.
“We are very excited to be doing this,” said Eliana Brown, program coordinator for EC. “In years past, I worked with volunteers to install medallions on storm drains with the message “No Dumping Drains to Creek.” This year, David Wilcoxen, associate director of EC, and my supervisor, challenged me to create an engaging project that built on this concept.”
Litter is a major pollutant of local, national and global bodies of water that is carried down the storm drains by rainfall. Brown has been working with the Public Art League (PAL), the Champaign County Design & Conservation Foundation (CCDC), the Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD), the City of Champaign, and the Urbana Park District on a creative new way to encourage people to be responsible citizens and put trash in its place.
“A lot of people may not realize anything going into storm drains ends up in our local creeks,” said Brown. “I hope the project will help people understand what they do with their trash matters downstream. The project’s goal is to increase understanding and education and inspire people to keep our waterways clean and healthy.”
Much of our stormwater drains into Boneyard Creek, which in turn drains into the Saline Branch and then the Salt Fork River, which are tributaries to the Big Vermilion River System. Eventually, this becomes the Ohio River then finds its way via the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
The only thing that should find its way into stormwater drains is rainwater. Cans, bottles, cups, straws, cigarette butts and other trash washed into storm drains not only pollutes Illinois rivers but also affects waterways worldwide.
Brown says, “The key message is ‘celebrate our streams and rivers and keep them pollution free.’ Some artists are depicting aquatic creatures that live in our creek. We consulted Becky Fuller, associate professor of Animal Biology, to ensure that the fish species are accurate for our area. Others are painting animals that definitely do not live here or anywhere — that is, mythical creatures. One artist is painting both real and fantasy fish in the same mural. All the murals get the point across in clever ways.”
The artists painted the murals during fall 2013. The organizers expect the artwork to be around for 3-5 years.
The project purpose is to raise awareness that our campus is connected downstream so properly dispose of trash.