UA Group Turns Storm Drains into Art

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Most people probably never notice storm drains. Instead, they just walk or ride on by.

The University of Arkansas is working to change that.

Students and faculty are collaborating with cities in Northwest Arkansas to take part in a colorful educational opportunity.   Jane Maginot with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension is helping coordinate the project.

“The name of the project is Upstream Art,” said Maginot, “The goal is to educate NWA residents on the possible impact of storm drain pollutio and what impact our storm drains have on our local water quality.’’

Leah Saffian is one of the artists for the project.  She's an educational educator for the Washington County Environmental Affairs and Recycling Department, but she's also an artist who was ''drawn'' to this project.

Her work can be seen, down low, at curb level, right off Maple near the Frisco Trail in Fayetteville.

“I think that art is really unique because it allows you to hold the attention of people even though you're not present,” said Saffian.

Saffian says the storm art is her first public work. “I do paint anyway yes, but this is my first public piece. I really just always painted for myself and my friends.”

That's what Upstream Art is all about.  Every time somebody walks or rides by these storm drains there is a message lurking below. Maginot says the artwork is meant to start up an environmental conversation.

“The art is supposed to draw people into it. Every piece has a message in it. If you look at the art it helps you understand that our storms drains have a direct link to our water quality.”

There are also Upstream Art projects in Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville.

In case you're wondering, each painting is covered with a special sealant... that will prevent of of the paint from entering our groundwater.  Luckily the waters safe, and now thanks to these unique individuals, never has a storm drain looked so pretty.

To learn more about the project you can contact Jane Maginot.  Her number is (479) 444-1755.  You can also reach her at

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.