Artistic Messages of Consciousness, Community, and Clean Water

August 24, 2020
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Artist and Wheaton resident, Liz Murphy

If you look closely, you will find many beautifully painted storm drains across Montgomery County with messages highlighting the importance of clean water and protecting the Chesapeake Bay. These designs were created by county residents who entered in the annual Clean Water Art Contest over the past few years. Past winners of this contest have their designs painted on storm drains in areas, including Germantown and Wheaton.

Wheaton resident, Liz Murphy, is one of the winners from the 2018 contest. With the help of nine volunteers, Murphy’s design, titled “Working Together for Clean Water in Wheaton,” was painted on a storm drain across from the Wheaton Metro Station. She believes “people can be educated by artwork as well as the written word.”

Powerful Tool!

Environmental art is a powerful tool in communities as it catches the eye and leaves people wanting to learn more about the symbolism and purpose behind the work. Murphy wanted her design “to be bold enough to attract attention so people would be inspired by the message to work together to keep our water clean.”

Artist, Liz Murphy, with volunteers on painting day, April 28, 2018.

She describes the experience of painting the storm drain as a memorable one where she and volunteers, ranging from 5-year olds to teens and parents, were “able to work in harmony.” Some of the volunteers had just moved to Montgomery County and were looking for a way to become a part of the community. The youngest volunteers were “thrilled that they contributed and would be able to see [the storm drain art] ‘forever.’” Everyone’s favorite part of the experience was placing their handprint on the sun in the center of the drain, leaving their mark with a “great sense of pride and community.”

Not only does storm drain art beautify the county, but it brings awareness about the rivers and streams to which our storm water drains and about the wildlife that is impacted by water quality. The painted storm drains throughout Montgomery County educate people to be more conscious of their everyday practices’ impact on local bodies of water and serve as a reminder that we are all responsible for the well-being of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Regarding environmental protection, Liz Murphy says “it is all about the power of community.”



Guest blog By: Emma Frank, Summer 2020 DEP Watershed Restoration intern.

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