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​ Arkansas Arts Council Grant Helps Support Public Art, Environmental Awareness Program

Arkansas Arts Council - Monday, April 22, 2019


Marcus Vasquez, of North Little Rock, takes a selfie of himself with his artwork, “Sunset on the Water."

Eighteen Arkansas artists started painting storm drains in Central Arkansas this month as part of the Drain Smart program. The paintings are meant to beautify and bring attention to the effect of littering on Arkansas waterways.

“Drain Smart is one of the tools that Audubon Arkansas Society and our partners are using to reduce pollution in our environment for the benefit of wildlife and people,” said Dan Scheiman, bird conservation director for the Society and chairman of the Drain Smart Committee. “Far too few people understand that storm drains lead straight to the nearest creek or river. Only rain should go down the storm drain; it isn’t a trash can.”

The Society, which organizes the program, has a mission to conserve and restore natural ecosystems. Since 2015, Drain Smart has featured 100 artists who have painted 76 murals that have brought to light the problems of litter pollution. Thousands of people have seen the drains and messages, officials say.

Since 2017, Drain Smart has been funded, in part, by the Arkansas Arts Council through a collaborative support grant that pays for art supplies, visa gift cards for artists and prize money for the top three artists selected via public vote.

Collaborative Project Support grants are awarded annually and support art activities that involve community outreach and target one or more underserved community groups. Project also must involve at least two separate organizations working together.

The Arts Council awarded the Society the matching grant at $8,400 for this fiscal year.

“The Arkansas Arts Council’s mission is to advance and empower the arts statewide,” said Patrick Ralston, director. “We believe the arts benefit everyone, enrich our society and bring people together. Drain Smart is an excellent example of the kind of programs the Council, with the Department of Arkansas Heritage, supports. The program raises awareness of important public issues while making art more accessible and encouraging Arkansas artists.”

Drain Smart is made of multiple and diverse nonprofit and government agencies that form a committee to choose participating artists. Artists from all over the state submitted 49 proposals this year. Scheiman said interest among artists and cities statewide has been growing.

Murals this year will be painted in Bryant, North Little Rock, East Village and west Little Rock with art concepts that include “Floating in the Water,” “Seeking Snail” and “Stop Pollution, Preserve Drain to Creek Ecosystems.” The program will end with a free event, “Meet the Artists Celebration,” at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 27, at Heifer Village & Urban Farm at 1 World Ave. in Little Rock.

Artists said they are excited to participate in this year’s program.

“I initially wanted to be part of the project as an artistic endeavor – it was something new to try," said Marcus Vasquez, of North Little Rock. “When I learned about the misconception many people have about storm drains, myself included, I wanted to do something to help bring attention to the truth of how we impact our rivers, creeks and the creatures that thrive in that habitat. What better way to do that than through art?”

For information on how to contribute or donate to Drain Smart, contact Scheiman at [email protected] or call 501-244-2229. For information on collaborative grants or other grants the Arkansas Arts Council offers, visit www.arkansasarts.org or call 501-329-9150.

Check out this map to see where artists will be painting drains!


Drain Smart Artists, 2019