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Public Art takes on Pollution

Reno's Public Art Vs. Pollution Project
When I first heard about this storm drain art project  out of Reno, Nevada, I knew we had to share it here on! Paul Klein, the Creative Director for the City of Reno, shares this guest blog today about the project. For more information on the Truckee Meadows Regional Stormwater Quality Management Program, please visit

For Reno, Nevada, the Truckee River is viability. Kayaking, fishing, tubing, we’re drawn to the river year round. The Truckee River empties Lake Tahoe, flows east through northern Nevada, and accounts for the primary source of drinking water in the Biggest Little City. Its ecosystem is vitally important to the region. A coalition of municipalities including the City of Reno, City of Sparks, Washoe County, and the Western Regional Water Commission are tasked with protecting the Truckee River.

Storm drains, which funnel rain water out of the inner-city, lead directly to the Truckee River. We needed to educate people on the purpose of storm drains and their difference from the sewer system. We were challenged to do this with little to no budget. All-the-while, educating people on the subject of watershed isn’t exactly easy. It’s not intriguing enough to capture people’s attention on its own. We thought that if we could humanize the storm drain, we would connect people with its purpose. So, we used the one medium that has moved people since the beginning of mankind…art.

Reno's Public Art vs. Pollution Project
We recruited local artists to take their paint brushes to the pavement and help us launch a campaign to perpetuate storm drains as mouths. As in, we wouldn't put radiator fluid, oil, or glass in our mouths, so we shouldn't put them in the River’s mouth. The campaign, titled “Storm Drains are the Mouth of the Reno”, launched in August.

We started with two storm drain characters, a fish and an octopus, that are painted with the storm drain entrances as their mouths. We created print ads and a two-minute video educating people on the campaign. The news media contributed greatly by airing the painting events and sharing the story with their viewers and readers. We saw thousands of social media posts, pictures, and videos being posted about public art vs. pollution. The campaign continues, with four more storm drain creatures being painted this fall.

Watch the video, Public Art Vs. Pollution:


Comments (1)

  1. Maureen Maxwell:
    Sep 13, 2013 at 09:48 AM

    Love this and we in Harrisburg are adding this to our Strategic Plan as a BMP :) We are "The Rain Barrel Coalition" in Harrisburg and we are moving at the speed of light to educate Central Pa on Stormwater Management. We started with a Rain Barrel festival in June and are now working on a Pilot Plan to add Rain Gardens, Green Roofs, Trees and Storm Drain Management to our vision. Thank you for sharing this ,as art was our beginnings with the rain barrels. This summer we had youth workshops throughout the summer painting barrels that we sold...we still have that as a tier of our plan now with the painted storm drains, and so much us web YET, but FB "The Harrisburg Rain Barrel Coalition".
    Maureen - Project Manager

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