Storm drain artwork aims to protect our waterways, bring awareness to importance of water runoff

Stunning artwork has been popping up around our community as a result of one of the Friends of the St. Clair River’s latest initiatives to not only promote local art, but also educate passersby about the importance of storm drains on our waterways.

“We sit at the heart of the Great Lakes which is the planet's largest freshwater source and as such we're accustomed to having access to an abundance of high-quality water so it's important that we keep this water clean and fresh by managing stormwater runoff,” says Sheri Faust, Executive Director of Friends of the St. Clair River. “Stormwater picks up whatever is on the ground and in its path — garbage, litter, pet waste, fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil, gasoline, dirt — all of that is picked up, enters storm drains, and goes directly to our rivers untreated.”

Kayla Faust, a 10th grader at Port Huron Northern High School, participated in the project. Her vibrantly-colored, shimmery artwork features a sun, mountains, hills, and a waterfall that empties into a lake that flows down to the storm drain at the corner of Water and Military Street in downtown Port Huron.

“I love artwork, drawing and painting, and I love being on the water swimming and boating so it’s really important to me that we keep it [our water] clean,” she says.

Kayla started drawing in 7th grade and enjoys depicting nature in her artwork such as flowers, animals, and butterflies. In addition to art, she enjoys gymnastics and playing the piano and hopes to go into marine biology or medical school to be a doctor.

Artists Kayla Faust (left) and her mentor for the storm drain art project, Donna Mitchell-Collins, pose for a photo by Faust's artwork in downtown Port Huron.

The initiative also included a mentorship component where artists were paired with other artists more experienced with mural work in an effort to foster more of those skills and increase public art in our community. Donna Mitchell-Collins, who also participated and whose artwork is featured in one of the murals at the Military Street tunnel along the Blue Water River Walk, mentored Kayla for the project.

“I love to see her work and to think outside the box,” Mitchell-Collins says. “She was working on one thing and she didn't really like it, so she painted over it — that's what most of us do. If we don’t get it right the first time, we rework it and so I've loved watching her be able to develop her skills and problem solve.”

With materials provided, each of the 25 artists participating in the project were paid for their artwork featured along storm drains around Marine City, St. Clair, and Port Huron. The Community Foundation of St. Clair County, the St. Clair Art Association, River Rec Teen Zone, and the City of Port Huron provided funds to support the initiative which will now be a permanent addition to our Blue Water Area.

Read more articles by Liz Fredendall.

Liz Fredendall is a photojournalist and communications professional with nonprofit experience. In addition to her work with The Keel, Liz manages communications for the Community Foundation of St. Clair County, runs her own photography business, and writes for several publications. During her free time, Liz enjoys reading and exploring the Blue Water Area with her husband Erick and their corgi, Nori. Contact Liz at editor@thekeelph.com or follow her on Instagram @lizfredendallphoto.