A new on-campus mural seeks to raise environmental awareness

The Art and Sustainability programs on campus are showcasing another installment of their storm drain murals.

Last year, a mural was painted over one of the storm drains on campus. That now finished mural, a painting of a mermaid, is located along the sidewalk on the Redfern Arts Center side of the Thorne Art Gallery.

This year, to continue the saga, the Keene State Eco-reps are working with a student artist to continue spreading their “do no harm” message.

Keene State Eco-reps president and one of the people helping paint the mural, Mara Grady, said she is very happy with how the mural is coming out. Grady said, “Just working on it already, we’ve had people stop by and tell us that it looks really good or they really like the message that we’re spreading.”

This mural will stand as a reminder to the student body and community to be aware of what ends up in Keene’s storm drains. “Though [storm drains] are planted all over campus and no one really thinks twice about them, they actually have a big significance in what goes in it and every thing that goes in it goes to the local ecosystems and local rivers,”

Grady said. Grady said the previous mermaid mural was what inspired her to want to keep the trend going.

Eco-reps Secretary Kayli Lord also helped with the painting of the mural. Lord admitted, “I wasn’t involved in the other [storm drain mural], so this is my first.”

Lord described the experience of working to create this art piece to be, “pretty humbling since we don’t really have a lot of the storm drains painted on campus so for Eco-reps to have one of the very first ones is pretty cool.”

Lord explained why she feels strongly about the message behind this mural as well as the message behind the first eco-minded mural. “The other one’s like the whole source to sea kind of thing. It’s important to understand where [the drains] go so as to not dump trash in them and do as little as we can to harm what goes out into the ocean and out into the river.”

Lord also said, “Everyone should be a little more in-tune with how it works.” Lord noted, “I know that Keene as a city does a lot to try and preserve the Ashuelot specifically but we could always do more, there’s always things that could just be more environmentally friendly.”

Lord said she hopes for the continuation of this project. “Bringing the attention to the spot makes people become more aware, oh that does go into the river, cause right now it like people say, oh it’s a storm drain, but now it has a message.”

The artist of the piece is first-year student Alyssa Myron. Myron said, “This is my first time doing a mural in general.”

Myron said she likes the feeling of having her art out where everyone can see it. “It’s pretty cool, I don’t have a lot of experience with expressing my art through big groups of people, I have a few paintings in a few shops back home but it’s never been open to public view which I think is really cool.”

Myron admitted, “It’s just really inspiring and empowering because I’m a first-year and this is one of the first projects we’re doing in the Eco-reps that I’m a part of and it was my design that was chosen so that was really cool.”

In terms of choosing her design, Myron said, “I kind of just looked through things online for inspiration and thought about it for a bit, let it fester in my mind and then I came up with it on Thursday and we met on Friday.”

Myron talked about the differences between this art and her previous pieces, “I don’t really do landscapes as much, I don’t paint with acrylics as much as I once did so it’s getting back into it, but before I took that break I was mostly doing people and skin tones and stuff so it’s a whole new section of art for me to do which is really cool.”

Myron also said, “I’m just really loving the meaning of it and just the purpose of the mural and the storm drain mural.”

Myron said they found “the perfect spot” for her mural design.

Grady said she chose the spot for the mural based on the amount of space the design would need. “I chose this location because it had a really good radius around the drain. A lot of the drains are kind of along the end of pavement or next to some type of barrier so this one had a good radius where we wanted to do a pond.

Grady also said foot traffic was a deciding factor in choosing the mural’s location. “It’s an area that I feel like people won’t be walking all over it,” Grady said. After the mural is finished it will be coated in a sealant to help keep it vibrant for years to come.

Linsey Edmunds, Keene State’s Sustainable Materials Management Coordinator, and faculty advisor for the Ecoreps, mapped out the origin of this project. Edmunds said, “We launched this project last semester when City of Keene Official Eric Swope was getting ready to retire and he had learned about this initiative, these storm drain murals, from another city’s water sanitation office and he always wanted to bring them back to Keene.”

Edmunds added, “I just happened to be part of that meeting and said that actually sounds really great and a cool way to work across disciplines. That’s one thing I love about sustainability is that you really need to work with so many different people from different departments and different experiences because Sustainability really touches every aspect of life.”

Once returned to the campus with the idea, Edmunds said, “This project seemed like a really cool opportunity so I reached out to an art professor, Stephanie Nichols, and I was like ‘would you be interested in trying this with me, with your art expertise and connections to students studying art’ and she was like ‘yeah absolutely lets do it’.”

Edmunds elaborated on the process of this Eco-reps mural, “Mara in particular was like ‘I really want to do a storm drain mural’ and I was like ‘alright let’s get some submissions together, we’ll send them off to the powers that be here at Keene State and see if we can get approval for another one’ and it was as easy as that.”

Edmunds says the process for starting a new mural is “informal right now.”

For the future, Edmunds said, “I would eventually like to have a form maybe up on OwlNet or the website where people can submit design ideas and then it can be less of an informal process and more of a formal process.”

Grady said, “We do want to have a lot more on campus, we want to do one a semester… We would like to get them all over campus but they are time consuming.”

Lord added, “We kind of want to do it as an annual thing.”

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