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Artist beautifies Malibu storm drains
Storm drains are those slits along the side of the road that make people who are texting grip their cell phones a little tighter as they walk by.
They’ve probably swallowed more bouncy balls, keys, coins and small toys than anyone can count, but storm drains consume far more than the things we wish to hold on to.
Suffice it to say that if something can fit in a storm drain, it has probably gone down one at some point: plastic water bottles, motor oil, food wrappers and grocery bags – the list goes on, but whatever makes its way to the storm drain can eventually make its way to the ocean.
The City of Malibu, however, unveiled on Thursday, April 17, murals painted at four storm drains throughout the city that are intended to remind residents and visitors that whatever they allow in a storm drain can have a negative impact on the local marine environment.
Approximately 50 people at the unveiling ceremony stood in front of a mural depicting a pair of dolphins – at street level – guarding the entrance of a storm drain in the parking lot at Trancas Canyon Park. The mural and its counterparts are apart of a larger City campaign called “Keep it Clean, Malibu,” which aims to protect the 24-mile-long “Area of Special Biological Significance” in Malibu.
At sidewalk level, the Trancas Canyon Park mural also depicts a rain garden that illustrates how residents could help combat the contamination of Earth’s oceans.
The other three murals depict an octopus and jellyfish, sharks and the murals’ artist Lindsay Carron’s favorite: sea lions.
“It was really inspiring to hear people’s feedback along the way,” said Carron, adding that during approximately three weeks of painting, people would talk to her and marvel at the murals’ colors. “The most inspiring thing was that people were getting the point. They would walk up and just understand that whatever goes down our storm drains goes right to the ocean.”
The City of Malibu’s search for an artist to decorate its storm drains began in early February. Carron and her vision were selected from among 18 applicants to the City’s request for an artist.
“When I first saw the application, I started researching a lot about urban runoff and learning more about how much of an impact that we do have on our oceans through things you wouldn’t necessarily think about, such as storm drains,” Carron said. “We pass storm drains every day – maybe hundreds a day – but we never really think about what actually goes down a storm drain.”
Part of what separated Carron from other applicants was her focus on rain gardens as a means of filtering water and creating a buffer before runoff reaches storm drains.
“I really just latched onto this idea pretty quickly and thought it was a great way to demonstrate simply the things that we can do to prevent the runoff and show it in a way that would click with viewers,” she said.
A rain garden is essentially a garden that uses sandy soil, rocks and native plant species on the edge of one’s property as a buffer from the gutters and storm drains. A rain garden absorbs all of the excess water from a plot of land and uses it to water native plants. An added benefit is the garden’s ability to catch items before they reach the storm drain as well.
“It’s one of those simple solutions that we can all take part in and that’s where I came up with the concept,” Carron said. “I decided the rain garden should be on the top and transition into healthy ocean life.”
Carron’s murals are painted with high-quality acrylic paints that won’t easily fade in sunlight exposure or weather. The murals are fortified with a clear-coat sealant to further protect from damage. Although the murals are expected to hold up for years, Carron is contracted to maintain her artwork for the next two years.
She also ensured that painting a mural reminding people to not pollute the ocean did not itself pollute the ocean by laying down several tarps and blocking the entrance to the storm drain as she painted.
“I’ve never worked in a situation where I would have to protect part of the mural,” she said. “The storm drains were a challenge in that way as I couldn’t have any paint go down the storm drain, because that would defeat the purpose.”
Although Carron admitted that she typically likes to “paint a little messy,” she “had to clean up [her] act a bit” for the project.