Drain art advocates being green

Nightly+Drain%3A++One+of+the+drains+found+downtown+shows+water+flowing+into+the+sewer.++These+paintings+remind+citizens+to+not+throw+trash+into+the+storm+drains+and+to+think+twice+about+how+their+actions+affect+the+environment.+Photo+by+Asa+Lory+

Nightly Drain: One of the drains found downtown shows water flowing into the sewer. These paintings remind citizens to not throw trash into the storm drains and to think twice about how their actions affect the environment. Photo by Asa Lory

Ashleigh Atasoy

Nightly Drain: One of the drains found downtown shows water flowing into the sewer. These paintings remind citizens to not throw trash into the storm drains and to think twice about how their actions affect the environment. Photo by Asa Lory

As the autumn breezes whip across Columbia, luminous leaves litter the streets of downtown. Filling the crevices hugged by adjoining buildings, the fall leaves serve as a bright relief from the monotone shades of concrete.

But, thanks to several artists, downtown’s streets have been looking a lot more vibrant.

This summer, the city commissioned nine artists to paint over nine drains throughout downtown Columbia. Executive Director of the Columbia Art League, Diana Moxon, said the drains raise awareness of where the drain water leads to, the wild, the city hopes to reduce litter by reminding citizens the drains location.

In addition to serving as a reminder, the drain art also aims to enhance the city. Moxon believes the reason the drains are so effective is because of the combination of art and an important message.

The storm drains “not only bring fabulous color to the streets, but they convey a really important environmental message,” Moxon said. “There’s a reason they put sugar coating on pills – it makes the medicine more palatable. With the storm drain art, you’ve got a really important environmental issue that most people don’t stop to think about, except now they’re enjoying the work of fabulous local artists and subliminally – or consciously – recognizing the message.”

Though the drains have only been around for a few months, the art has gained popularity among appreciative Columbians. Junior Sarah Poor, an enthusiastic fan of the project, said the drains add character to the cityscape.

The storm drain art “shows Columbia’s artful side and the cultural part of our town. I feel like everywhere you go in Columbia is super boring and just ‘normal,’ but when you go downtown, you see how interesting Columbia is,” Poor said. “It reflects on our whole city. … We have so many talented people in Columbia, and we need to show that, and the drain art downtown is a great way to do that.”
The drains boast everything from a 3D stream to a red guitar, transforming the most uneventful corners with their radiant colors, vivid images and lustrous depth. RBHS art teacher Carrie Stephenson said the program is a creative twist on a big issue.

“These drains are becoming more and more noticeable I think that it isn’t as easy to ‘forget’ where they are, which will hopefully make members of the Columbia community much more aware of where they are littering or throwing their trash,” Stephenson said. “Hopefully our community will begin to look for alternate ways to recycle and throw their waste away rather than littering.”

Moxon said this awareness seeks to decrease the city waste, lessening Columbia’s negative impact on the environment. But other advantages of the program are present. Serving dually to educate the public and amplify the city art scene, the storm drains are revamping the downtown area into an outdoor art gallery, one corner at a time.”I love art which enhances our environment,” Moxon said. “Too often people find themselves too busy to step into an art gallery and spend a few moments enjoying art. With this kind of street art, it brings art into the lives of more people and reminds them that art makes a difference.”
By Ashleigh Atasoy