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Public arts campaign on water quality underway

Post Date:05/16/2018 10:32 AM

Local artists will begin work next week installing four original murals on selected storm drains in the downtown area. After seeking submissions in the fall, the town received 55 original design concepts from 41 different artists. Each artist was invited to submit a design to raise public awareness of the choices (and changes) we can all make to restore the health of our local waterways while addressing one or more of these themes:

  • The Town of Blacksburg’s Freshwater Heritage
  • The Protection of Stroubles Creek
  • New River Watershed’s Natural Beauty: local wildlife, healthy habitat & natural beauty

Judges selected designs that were graphically bold with clear messages and educational potential. The four artists selected are: Nicole Hersch, Shoshana Levenson, Ben Oderwald, and Michael St. Germain.  

“We received so many high-quality design concepts, and it was really challenging for the selection team to choose just four. We’re particularly grateful for the assistance of the Blacksburg Regional Arts Association, who provided feedback as we developed the program and helped us publicize it with area artists. Blacksburg wants to be a community that uses the arts to talk about water quality, and other environmental issues” said Carol Davis, Blacksburg Sustainability Manager.

There is a common misconception that the water from storm drains goes through a treatment process. Chemicals, pet waste, sediment, and leaves and grass clippings all affect our water quality directly. “Art projects like this help draw attention to problems that are frequently overlooked,” Kafi Howard, Blacksburg Stormwater Engineer, said. “We want people to understand that if something’s on the ground, it will eventually make its way into the water, but small changes in behavior can make a huge difference.” 

Four storm drains downtown were identified as locations for the murals. The town held a contest for local artists to submit their mural ideas and 41 artists submitted 55 unique design concepts. An official unveiling and ribbon cutting will occur during Sustainability Week in September. 

“Blacksburg wants to be a community that uses the arts to talk about water quality, and other environmental issues that impact our community,” Davis said. 

Shoshana Levenson sketch of the New River Pure with Hokie Bird overlooking New River