HER Cover Story

Stormwa­ter mu­rals raise pub­lic aware­ness

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Contents - Julie Wil­liams and Roxy Rose

When Hot Springs Deputy City Man­ager Bill Bur­rough was out of town on city busi­ness and re­turned with the idea to paint the city’s stormwa­ter in­lets to raise aware­ness about wa­ter qual­ity, Denny McPhate, the city’s Stormwa­ter Di­vi­sion di­rec­tor, and the rest of the de­part­ment jumped on the idea.

Lo­cal artists Julie Wil­liams and Roxy Rose were called on to make the vi­sion a re­al­ity.

“(The mu­rals) are sup­posed to make the pub­lic aware that ev­ery­thing drains to the lake from there, to pro­tect our wa­ters, be­cause any­thing you throw down there goes to the lake,” said Rose.

In 2016 Wil­liams and Rose painted wa­ter- and fish-themed mu­rals on four in­lets along the 800 block of Park Av­enue and one on Or­ange Street in front of the Hot Springs Farm­ers & Ar­ti­sans Mar­ket.

The mu­ral in front of the farm­ers mar­ket re­sem­bles a seed packet with a pool of wa­ter lead­ing into the drain and a sun­flower painted around the man­hole.

Col­or­ful mu­rals with mes­sages such as “wa­ter is life,” “pro­tect our wa­ters,” “go with the flow” and “only rain down the drain” are in­tended to make the pub­lic aware that the stormwa­ter that en­ters into the in­lets are not fil­tered in any way. What­ever goes into the in­lets goes straight into the pipe or tun­nel and straight into the lake or streams.

McPhate said one of the six ba­sic re­quire­ments that the city’s stormwa­ter di­vi­sion is man­dated by is to give pub­lic aware­ness for wa­ter qual­ity.

“Paint­ing these in­lets, you no­tice them a lot fur­ther away, they’re a lot larger, more vis­ual, so it ac­com­plishes sev­eral things for us in the stormwa­ter man­age­ment,” he added.

McPhate said there are more than 1,000 medal­lions on curb units through­out the city that say “no dump­ing, drains to lake,” but be­cause the medal­lions are only 4 inches long, you don’t see them un­less you’re re­ally look­ing for them.

When Wil­liams and Rose at­tended the ini­tial meet­ing about the pro­ject, they were given a list of slo­gans and ideas for the mu­rals. The idea for the pro­ject was also run be­fore the Arts Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for ad­di­tional in­put. They got to work in Au­gust 2016. “They first had to be pres­sure-washed, primed, and then painted and sealed, so it kind of de­pended on the weather, but we worked pretty fast,” Wil­liams said. “There was a lot of work done to make sure that we were us­ing the right kind of paint. We re­ally had to do the re­search, and then they prob­a­bly have to be sealed about ev­ery six months to keep them from get­ting chipped. We don’t want to do this and then not have it stay.”

She added that it took about a month to com­plete the mu­rals.

Wil­liams and Rose both agree that paint­ing the mu­rals was fun and for a good cause, but can also re­call some not-so-fun times dur­ing the month­long pro­ject.

“It was so hot, ex­cept for one time, I re­mem­ber, it was so cold I had to stick my hands down in the drain area (to warm them up),” Rose said. She added, “then, one time, (Julie) got beamed in the shoul­der by a wal­nut.”

Wil­liams said the city plans to ex­pand the pro­ject and be­gin tak­ing sub­mis­sions from other artists that would be re­viewed and voted on by a com­mit­tee, which Rose and Wil­liams will both be a part of.

“There’s go­ing to be a com­mit­tee, so that when the artists, any artist, they could be young, they could be any­body, as long as you sub­mit a de­sign, and then they can be looked at by the com­mit­tee to de­cide where they would go best,” Wil­liams said.

Wil­liams and Rose have been in­volved in the art com­mu­nity for over 20 years, which is why Wil­liams thinks the city chose them to kick off the pro­ject.

“They picked us be­cause we’re pro­fes­sion­als. They knew we’d do it, and do it right,” Wil­liams said.

“And they’re fa­mil­iar with our work, so it was kind of like, what we do would go along with what they were look­ing for,” Rose added.

Rose used to work as a park ranger on the Buf­falo River and both Wil­liams and Rose are avid land­scap­ers and gar­den­ers.

When asked why the pro­ject is per­son­ally im­por­tant to them, Rose said, “I think we’re both very eco­log­i­cal-minded peo­ple. We’re in­ter­ested in the pro­tec­tion of our city and our re­sources.”

Dur­ing the pro­ject some of the res­i­dents on Park Av­enue put up a big “thank you” sign from the com­mu­nity thank­ing the artists for do­ing the work. “It made me cry,” Rose said. “Peo­ple brought us wa­ter and we had a flash mob party one day with a disco ball and mu­sic and it was just a hap­pen­ing place on Park Av­enue,” Wil­liams said. “I didn’t hear any neg­a­tive feed­back. We also tried to make sure that the de­signs were pretty safe — how can you get mad at a fish? It wasn’t su­per con­tro­ver­sial; we wanted to keep it real light.”

Rose added that they be­came ac­quainted with the res­i­dents on Park Av­enue and that they were con­stantly check­ing on them and mak­ing sure they didn’t need any­thing.

“Ev­ery­body was help­ing, the city helped; it was a very pos­i­tive pro­ject, it re­ally was,” Wil­liams added.

Artists Julie Wil­liams and Roxy Rose

Artist Roxy Rose paints fin­ish­ing touches on the curb in the 800 block of Park Av­enue.

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