Mid-Missouri artists to educate with downtown storm drain murals

Saturday, June 30, 2012 | 4:38 p.m. CDT; updated 9:12 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 1, 2012

COLUMBIA — Murals will soon decorate nine downtown stormwater drains.

Thumper Entertainment and Columbia's Stormwater Utility are teaming up with nine local mid-Missouri artists to educate the community about the importance of storm drains and water quality protection. The Storm Drain Mural Project will feature one mural for each artist to send an eco-friendly message in his or her own unique style.

Mike Heimos, stormwater educator, thought a mural project would draw attention to the often-neglected storm drains.

“The idea was to create something that would get the conversation going,” Heimos said. “We want to make people notice it, make it stand out more, make it an issue.”

The common misconception is that storm drains are sewers in which people can throw paint, cigarette buds, bottles and other pollutants, Heimos said. In reality, they lead to rivers and other waterways.

This is water that people swim in, fish in and inevitably drink from, and "we're polluting it," Heimos said.

“What we do in our everyday lives — big or small — affects our local waterways,” Heimos said.

When Heimos contacted Thumper Entertainment president Betsy Farris about the project, she jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s a great way to do two wonderful things at once,” Farris said. “To really educate the citizens and also to bring some cool artwork to the downtown area." 

Farris said she hope the artistic approach to the project will make the effort more memorable.

“I think when people see a work of art they stop for a minute, and they want to take it in,” Farris said. “I think art communicates that message.”

Columbia artist Jenny McGee and Jefferson City artist Rodger Francis hope to use their artwork to spread awareness to Columbia residents. Both artists live an eco-friendly lifestyle.

“This project wasn’t about me,” McGee said. “It was about expressing something that could help communicate a larger message. I wanted to use bright colors and optimistic imagery, so it can raise awareness and wasn’t such a heavy, in your face, screaming message.”

Francis, who described himself as a surrealist painter, plans on taking somewhat of a different approach to his storm drain mural.

“It’s kind of in your face, but I think aesthetically people are going to come up to it and say, 'Wow, that’s really cool,’” Francis said.

Francis said he's looking forward to seeing people's reactions to his artwork.

Work on the project will begin Monday, Heimos said. It is expected to be complete by the 2012 Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival in September.

Heimos said he believes the project will successfully educate the public and help preserve Columbia.

“We are the polluters and it’s important for people to take responsibility not only in  their own backyard but in the community,” Heimos said.

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