In an effort to reduce stormwater pollution across Cuyahoga County, Amy Roskilly of the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District started the “It’s Raining Art” rain barrel art program, which is currently auctioning off locally decorated rain barrels. The program features 21 decorated rain barrels that are on display at popular sites in the Cleveland area until they are handed over to the highest bidder on Sept. 28.
Roskilly works as the conservation education specialist for the organization, which means she assists cities such as Bay Village and North Olmsted in complying with the federal Clean Water Act, as well as educating the general public on the benefits of conservation. The Clean Water Act is a United States federal law created in 1972 that governs water pollution and ensures water meets standards for human recreational use.
In 2008, Roskilly introduced the rain barrel concept to the organization and, since then, 2,500 rain barrels have been sold in Cuyahoga County. Even though Cuyahoga County has experienced a hot and dry summer, rain barrels connected to an average-sized roof only need approximately one-half inch of rain in order to be completely filled, according to Roskilly.
“You don’t have to be a huge activist,” she said, “but doing the small things at home helps contribute to controlling stormwater pollution.”
Rain barrels artists come from all over Northeast Ohio, and are given the freedom to decorate barrels however they wish. Randy Maxin of Lakewood used wire hangers to create his rain barrel, “Hung, The Rain Barrels,” which is currently on display at MoCa Coffee House & Cafe on the corner of West 105th and Clifton Boulevard.
“I am very fond of designs that use a single element,” said Maxin. “’Hung, The Rain Barrel’” is literally a design of manipulated wire coat hangers. I knew I would not be painting the barrel; I wanted to create dimension and add a bit of curiosity.”
The rain barrels are intended to conserve water and aid in the fight against stormwater pollution. Stormwater pollution is surface runoff water that flows into the drain system and on the way to the drain collects remnants of fertilizer, pesticide, oil and sediment. By using the rain barrel, one is containing water, instead of letting it become polluted on its way to the storm drain, which can then be used on lawns and gardens.
“Plants really like this water much more, because water from our sinks and hoses has additives in it, such as chlorine and fluoride, which kill microbes that help plants grow,” said Roskilly. “You don’t want to drink that water because it is coming off the roof and it comes in contact with the roof’s shingles and bird waste on your roof, but it’s not harmful to the vegetables.”
The rain barrels are made of recycled plastic and are connected to the downspout by making an incision in the downspout and using a downspout diverter. A hose is connected to the downspout diverter and is attached to the rain barrel so that it fills the barrel with water from the downspout. Once the barrel is full, water will continue to run down the downspout, just as it had before the rain barrel was connected. The rain barrel should sit elevated on a block of concrete, and the spigot at the bottom can either be attached to a garden hose or used to fill a watering can.
Dave Gruss, of Avon, was inspired by a recent trip to the coast of Maine to paint a lighthouse and the sunset on his rain barrel, entitled “The Lighthouse.” Gruss wanted to keep to a nautical theme for his barrel, which is on display at the Mayfield Heights Community Center.
“I hope this program makes more people aware about conserving water and helping the environment,” said Gruss. “And hopefully, local citizens will pick some nice art and be more involved and help support the communities.”
For more information and to place a bid ($100 opening bid) on a rain barrel, please visit www.cuyahogaswcd.org. To reach Amy Roskilly, please call 216-524-6580, ext. 22, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.