You may have noticed some of our city storm drains are getting a makeover. More than a dozen artists are participating in a citywide mural project aimed at raising awareness about water quality issues. Soirée talked to one of the organizers of the event, Dan Scheiman, to discuss the inaugural year for central Arkansas' 2015 Drain Smart program. 

Soirée: What is Drain Smart?

Dan Scheiman: Drain Smart is an environmental public art project designed to communicate the function and importance of local storm drains. Artists have been recruited to paint select storm drains with murals that reflect a water quality protection message. Many Little Rock residents have a misconception that the storm drains are part of our sanitary sewer system that lead to the wastewater treatment plant, which leads them to misuse storm drains--thinking it's a "safe" way to dispose of waste. However, when pollutants are disposed of via storm drains, they end up directly in our waterways. Paper and plastic items, grease and oil, brake dust, anti-freeze, fertilizer, yard and pet waste must not be dumped into storm drains. Even litter on the street is carried into our storm drains when it rains. Don’t litter!

Soirée: Tell us what sparked the idea for this public mural project. 

Scheiman: The Friends of Fourche Creek are working to restore and revitalize Fourche Creek, Little Rock’s main waterway, for the benefit of the environment, wildlife, and people. Fourche Creek is polluted. Drain Smart is part of Friends of Fourche Creek’s pollution prevention and reduction campaign. Public art is a visible, engaging way to educate a lot of people for years to come. Drain Smart is modeled after a popular storm drain mural program in Northwest Arkansas called UpStream Art.

Soirée: How many artists are involved and how do you think these murals help bring awareness to the cause? 

Scheiman: Seventeen talented artists are currently working on their murals on 18 storm drains, six in each of three areas. Each mural will be accompanied by a marker that states the storm drain goes directly to the creek. Another marker has a QR Code that leads to the Drain Smart website http://www.drain-smart.org where people can learn more. We’re hosting a kick-off/fundraising event on June 9 at the Arkansas Arts Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. where people can meet the artists, learn about their art, and learn about how they can help protect our water quality. Just having the artists on the street working on their murals is already leading to public and media attention. When people realize where storm drains lead, they will think twice before they dump anything down those drains or onto the street.

Soirée: How and where can the public vote? 

Scheiman: Voting will begin at the June 9 event and go through the end of the month. People will also be able to vote on the Drain Smart website. They can vote for their favorite artist at each of the three areas with murals – South Main, War Memorial Corridor, Downtown/River Market. The top vote-getter from each area will receive a $500 VISA gift card.

Soirée: What made you decide to focus on the three areas of town?

Scheiman: The three areas with murals – South Main, War Memorial Corridor, and Downtown/River Market – are highly trafficked so art will be seen by a lot of people every day. South Main and War Memorial drain to Fourche Creek. Downtown/River Market drains directly to the Arkansas River.

Soirée: This is the inaugural year. What's the response so far, and are plans already in the works for another project next year? 

Scheiman: You can bet that people are already taking notice of the art and artists. They are talking about it on social media.  I’m sure curiosity is building. After this season is over we’ll start planning for next year. Next year we’ll select another set of storm drains in other neighborhoods in central Arkansas, recruit more artists, and grow the program annually.

More info: 

For information, click here.