Columbus, OH

FLOW partners with local artists to create sidewalk murals, spreads awareness surrounding storm drainage

The Lantern
Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, also known as FLOW, seeks to educate the community about the proper use of storm drains through artwork created by local artists. Credit: Samantha Harden | Lantern Reporter

On Sunday, the Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed, also called FLOW — a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and cleaning the Olentangy River — partnered with 10 local artists to create sidewalk murals in hopes of spreading awareness about the proper use of storm drains in Columbus.

The 10 murals, painted along the east side of North High Street, stretch from Oakland Avenue to 11th Avenue. Sara Gallaugher, FLOW’s service event coordinator and the painting session’s main organizer, said a grant from the Columbus Foundation and additional help from the University District Organization made this possible.

Gallaugher said the event aimed to educate people through the artwork.

“A lot of people don’t realize there is no filter on storm drains,” Gallaugher said. “When trash goes down the drains, it goes into the river too.”

“Only rain down the drain” is a common slogan when it comes to storm drain education, Gallaugher said. It was used by many of the artists as inspiration for their pieces. One of the artists, Donna Estep, chose to depict two fish in love. The picture features a deep-sea fish and a household goldfish, functioning as a representation of how pollution negatively affects Columbus’ community and the world.

“It’s about the connection,” Estep said. “All the way from the house to the sea.”

Local artist Sam Kochan said they focused their piece on the idea of an ecosystem and took inspiration from the Olentangy Trail, which they walk along regularly.

“I am including many different animals in it,” Kochan said. “I want to show that it is not just fish that are affected; it is everything in the environment.”

The artists began painting their murals at 9 a.m. Sunday and worked until 4 p.m.

Miriam Baranov, a local artist who participated in the event, said she was not used to working on an entire piece within seven hours but was excited to take on the challenge. Some of Baranov’s past works have taken her nearly 200 hours to complete, she said.

“I usually spend hours working on one piece,” Baranov said. “If I could work on it forever, I would.”

Gallaugher said although this is FLOW’s first time hosting such an event, she is hoping to expand to other areas around Columbus. FLOW is currently planning another art installation for fall in the Short North, Gallaugher said.

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