Painting Baltimore Blue

The Healthy Harbor initiative recently announced their vision for a fishable and swimmable harbor by 2020, and we are working hard to make that vision a reality.  Baltimore neighborhoods play an essential role in accomplishing that goal because the health of our waterways and the health of our communities are directly connected.  That is the motivation behind the creation of the Clean Water Community Initiative, a collaborative effort we kicked off last year to engage more people in taking action for cleaner waterways and healthier communities.

Giant Squid by 901 Arts

What can we do as Baltimore citizens to make the 2020 goal a reality? It will take a combination of: 1) education and awareness (“spreading the word”); 2) clean and green projects (“getting dirty”); and 3) collective advocacy (“telling our leaders what we need and deserve”).

As the organizer for the Clean Water Community Initiative, I want tell you about some inspirational people who are using paint to spread the word about stormwater pollution.

Sarah Tooley and 901 Arts have been working over the past few years to foster the artistic and musical abilities within the youth of Better Waverly. A walk around their neighborhood will show you how. They are painting vibrant sidewalk ‘murals’ around their storm drains and inspiring others to do the same. Last summer, 901 Arts youth artists came to Blue Water Baltimore to present a workshop to folks from around the city who were also interested in educating others about the harmful effects of litter by taking over their storm drains. They are brilliant. Check out their latest storm drain painting of a giant squid!

Have you been to Northeast Market lately? We love our historic Baltimore markets, but they generate a lot of trash and often that trash does not make it into a trash can. That leaves the community surrounding the market with littered streets. Last year, the CARE neighborhood in partnership with Banner Neighborhoods painted a street mural in the intersection at the south side of the market. The mural shows what the stormwater pipes look like under our streets and connects the five storm drains to the pipes with splashes of bright blue paint and images of oysters and crabs. They also asked residents and passers-by to sign a pledge to keep the streets clean AND designed a catchy slogan with youth from the area as a call to action: “Trash in the street pollutes what we eat.”  This spring, they will continue to expand the project to other storm drains in the neighborhood! 

Painting Day at Northeast Market


How about Hollins Market? Early last fall, Southwest Cares and residents living around the market painted four storm drain murals with the help of local artist Ebony Robinson. They gathered on weekends at the Black Cherry Puppet Theater to brainstorm ideas, design the murals, and plan for action. Then they held a painting day celebration and got even more residents involved in spreading the word about stormwater pollution.

Lastly, just around the corner from our office in Belair-Edison, students at Afya middle school designed and painted a storm drain mural of a puffer fish with the slogan, “Trash Puffs Me Up.” The students worked with local artist Melissa Moore and Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc. organizer Kadija Hart as they learned to use art as a tool for activism.

Storm Drain Workshop with 901 Arts

I have been immersed in stormwater over the past year. It has me staring at storm drains, sizing up vacant land, and talking to people all over the city about littering, greening, and where their hope lies for a cleaner, greener, and healthier Baltimore. 

I encourage you to check out these people and places, and start thinking about how you can make your neighborhood brighter. Almost every evening in Baltimore, there is a community association gathering somewhere to move their neighborhood towards a healthier and more sustainable future.  Jump in to these efforts or start your own. It takes us all.

For more information about the Clean Water Community Initiative, contact me today.

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