In 2018, local Artists Jenny Anderson and Audrey Moore lead community art programming with the Young Scientists Club at the Urban Ecology Center in the Menomonee River Valley. Together they would walk the trails in Three Bridges Park, identify native plants and animals, and create art inspired by nature. The Young Scientists, ages 5-12, had the opportunity to create sun prints using plants and photosensitive paper, make their own ink and chalk from natural pigments, and reimagine insects and animals. The students artwork was scanned and digitally collaged to create the designs on the rain barrels.
These 1,100 gallon rain barrels were the first in the city to capture rainwater from a bridge, diverting unfiltered stormwater from the city’s combined sewer system. The rain barrels collect water for the new plantings in the park. When the plants mature, they naturally filter stormwater and require little watering which ultimately avoids wasting potable water through traditional watering systems. This is a successful demonstration project for green infrastructure, but the rain barrels went unnoticed until their art makeover.
This art project provided an educational opportunity for youth to learn about the history of the rain barrels and their ecological impact, while also contributing to long-lasting, visible art in the Menomonee Valley Community Park. The art draws attention to the rain barrels and reminds the community of this local effort to protect our rivers and Lake Michigan. A sign will be installed on the Hank Aaron State Trail nearby so trail users can learn about the environmental impact.
“The arts are an incredible way to build community,” said John Kowalczyk, Artists Working in Education. “We hope that through this project, we inspire residents from all over the city to explore the Menomonee River Valley and celebrate the beauty of nature right here in our neighborhood. It was wonderful to see the young scientists’ curiosity peak when creating art using natural materials and scientific processes”
The art programming was a partnership between Artists Working in Education and Menomonee Valley Partners. It was funded by the City of Milwaukee Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC) and We Energies Foundation.
The rain barrel demonstration project were made possible by a partnership between: City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, Fund for Lake Michigan, Marek Landscaping, Menomonee Valley Partners, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), and The Sigma Group.