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Storm drains are a vital but often misunderstood part of the UNT campus infrastructure, so the We Mean Green Fund is bringing attention to them with visually appealing artwork. The new storm drain artscapes are designed to grab the attention of those who pass by, raise awareness and provoke thought and dialogue concerning the importance of storm drains in the health of waterways and inspire environmental activism.
Storm drains collect runoff from streets, parking lots and lawns before draining into local bodies of water without passing through any treatment facility or filtering process. This means the litter and debris that collect near storm drains are carried directly into the aquatic ecosystems, which greatly impacts the health of those ecosystems and the quality of the water. To add to the problem of unawareness, storm drains are popular areas to drop cigarette butts and other trash because people mistakenly assume their litter will be filtered out of the water.
After receiving a proposal for creative artscapes to bring storm drain awareness to the UNT community, the We Mean Green Fund decided to move forward with funding and identified three high traffic locations that were reported to have large amounts of litter. A contest was held in the spring for student organizations and individual students to submit their designs for consideration.
“The criteria stated that the artwork should clearly communicate the connection between storm drains and the health of our local aquatic ecosystems and the quality of our water, and it should seek to raise awareness and inspire change with a positive, encouraging message,” said Christopher Snodgress, former graduate assistant for the We Mean Green Fund.
After the judging committee reviewed the submissions, the chosen winners were:
The designers were provided with environmentally friendly art supplies and asked to complete the artscapes by Earth Day in April.
“For my design, I thought about what would convince people to care about what goes down the drain and prevent them from littering,” said Maggie Brookshire. “I also enjoyed contributing to the beautification of our campus.”
“When I was painting the artscape, I would have some people come up to me and ask questions, which led to great dialogue,” said Nhi Nguyen. “I would even get some compliments, which really made me feel happy.”
“As an artist, being able to contribute to something important and conveying my skills makes me happy, and I enjoyed every minute of creating my storm drain,” said Chloe Trent. “I enjoy the thrill and the process/journey it takes to complete my art, and it makes it even better if it is for a great cause.”
The project also was an opportunity to partner with a company to help make a difference.
“We approached Sherwin Williams and asked for durable yet environmentally friendly paint, and they were great to work with,” said Snodgress. “The artscapes have held up well the past few months, and we have been very impressed with the paint.”
The artscapes have garnered great campus feedback as well.
“The feedback that we received was all positive, and faculty and staff commented how impressed they were with the level of the artwork,” said Snodgress.
With such positive feedback and 13 additional storm drains across campus, more artscapes could appear in the future.
For more information on the We Mean Green Fund, visit https://studentaffairs.unt.edu/we-mean-green-fund.