Port Huron resident and artist Donna Mitchell-Collins is one of several participants in one of Friends of the St. Clair River’s most recent initiatives that not only aimed to increase public art around the region, but to use art to educate and call attention to the negative effects of stormwater pollution.
“Stormwater pollution is the greatest source of pollution in our water bodies every year, just by sheer volume,” says Sheri Faust, Executive Director of Friends of the St. Clair River. “Our local coastal communities that are very built up have a lot of cement, pavement, and hardscaping and so the more urbanized and developed the landscape, the more stormwater runoff we have because there’s less ability for water to soak into the ground.”
Mitchell-Collins says when she first heard of the initiative, she thought of her late father, a wildlife biologist in Michigan for over 35 years, and knew she wanted to participate.
“My brothers and I were raised where we are the caretakers of the Great Lakes and all of the tributaries and to really help in any way that we can,” she says. “These were the kinds of things that he would love, that we're highlighting something that truly needs our attention.”
One of Donna Mitchell-Collins' mural located at Palmer Park in St. Clair.
One of her murals can be found along M-29 at Palmer Park in St. Clair which features a bee hovering around a water lily with the message “Be the solution to pollution.” Further up the river in Port Huron, her second mural is located on the corner of Water and Military Street. The highly-detailed mural paired with the message “Keep it clean, we are all downstream” depicts waves surrounding several animals including a rabbit, a fish, an eagle, and a turtle and uses a combination of vibrant colors with stark shading to intentionally draw attention to key features of the artwork.
“I added a lot of holographic paint and biodegradable glitter and those types of things just to really make it sparkle,” she says. “People are coming around walking, biking, and doing all these wonderful things downtown and as they're going by it catches their eye.”
Support for the initiative came from the Community Foundation of St. Clair County
, River Rec Teen Zone
, the City of Port Huron
, and the St. Clair Art Association
which helped to cover costs to provide materials and compensate each of the 25 artists who participated in the project.