Project aims to beautify rain barrels
By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer

photo

By Pamela Wood, The Capital
Top - Cindy Fletcher-Holden is one of six artists putting their artwork on a rain barrel for the Back Creek Conservancy's "Art in the Yard" project.
Bottom - Merrilyne Hendrickson is painting a blue heron on a giant plastic rain barrel for the Back Creek Conservancy. Her rain barrel and five others will be placed around the creek on March 24.

Being environmentally conscious doesn't have to be a burden.

In fact, going green can be quite beautiful, at least in the minds of a half-dozen Annapolis artists.

For weeks they've been poring over their creations: stately blue herons, whimsical crabs, fat raindrops - all painted on giant plastic barrels.

The barrels, when placed under downspouts, collect rainwater that can be used to water plants and grass. Environmentalists encourage the use of rain barrels as a way to conserve water and reduce the harmful stormwater runoff that damages streams and creeks.

Normally, rain barrels are oversize plastic monstrosities. They're often electric blue, bright green or translucent white. But that just won't do in a historic area or a neighborhood with strict rules.

"The rain barrels are rather unattractive. They are 50-gallon plastic drums," said Kristina von Rosenvinge, a volunteer with the Back Creek Conservancy. "We brainstormed and came up with 'Art in the Yard' to show that rain barrels can beautify your yard. They can be attractive."

Art in the Yard is a multipart project designed to increase the use of rain barrels in and around the creek, one of the four creeks within the Annapolis city limits.

Rain barrels are one way to combat the problems of stormwater runoff.

Stormwater picks up sediment and other harmful substances, carrying them into local waterways. And when it's not properly controlled, the rushing water can erode away stream banks.

The Back Creek stormwater program has several parts:

Today: The conservancy will host an informational meeting on stormwater called "What Is Your Watershed Address?" The meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Eastport-Annapolis Neck Library.

March 24: The decorated rain barrels will be installed at commercial locations around town to kick off a public education campaign to get people in the watershed to buy discounted rain barrels. People interested in bidding on a decorated rain barrel can do so at the locations.

April 21: People who ordered terested in bidding on a decorated rain barrel can do so at the locations.

April 21: People who ordered

rain barrels can pick them up - and paint them if they like - at the Eastport Fire Station.

Ms. von Rosenvinge said it wasn't too hard to convince artists to get on board - even though using plastic drums as a canvas was a challenge.

"I'm very interested in saving the bay and anything people can do," said artist Judi MacDonald. "It's a really nice and easy thing to do - especially if they're attractive - to put these in the yard."

Ms. MacDonald usually works in watercolor on paper, so painting on rain barrels was quite a change of pace.

She used acrylics - first priming and putting an overall beige coat on the barrel, then sketching her design of herons and crabs and filling in with paint.

Then, in one room of her creekside condo, her creation came alive.

"It took up the whole room, practically," she said.

Cindy Fletcher-Holden, who paints on canvas and also does murals, was inspired by another unique work of art she had done - a giant underwater scene at the wave pool at the Six Flags America amusement park in Prince George's County.

She liked the bubbles she painted for that project, and eventually adapted the idea into water droplets for the rain barrel. Her completed rain barrel is light teal with more than 100 water drops of varying sizes dotting the barrel.

Merrilyne Hendrickson still is working on her rain barrel. She's painting a scene of a blue heron standing on a log, stretching and preening.

"I thought this might be fun," said Ms. Hendrickson, who owns a boat lettering business. "I'm very environmentally conscious and this is a very environmentally conscious project."

Other artists creating painted rain barrels include Lucinda Cole Semans, John Williams and Rosemary Freitas Williams.

Louise Olsen, vice president of the conservancy, said plenty of volunteers and local businesses have contributed to the rain barrel cause.

"It's just been marvelous," she said.

Residents of the Back Creek area can learn more about buying rain barrels by sending an e-mail to jcrews-hanks@closecall.com or M2Olsen@aol.com

Published March 12, 2007, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.

(Revised March 2007)