Approached by the Elk County Conservation District to design one of several storm drain murals to engage and educate people about stormwater pollution, artist Mickayla Poland brainstormed images that would create an immediate impact.
“I thought about why there have been so many efforts to clean up these waterways, why it is so important and why people love it so much,” she said. “So my mural in Ridgway has a kayaker or a canoer – depending on how you view the image. There is a hellbender, which is a very vulnerable species to pollution and there’s a brown trout, along with some greenery and stones.
“I combined all these elements as inspiration to show what could be affected if you would dump something down the drain and how it goes directly into our waterways.”
“These murals really have gotten a lot of attention. It has been neat to watch the artists, and while they paint, their ideas come to life in a way that helps us spread important messages,” she said. “People don’t realize what we’ve seen in terms of how the water is impacted by what goes down those drains. This gives us a new opportunity to spark a conservation that can really make an impact.”
Via PA Made, Poland has created stickers with messages such as “Save the critters, don’t litter” and a colorful trout insignia with the slogan “Keep my home free of debris.”
“Creating something that is cute and visually appealing and marrying that with the conservation part of things can be a very powerful tool toward engagement and education,” said Poland. “I love where I live, I love the outdoors and it’s a huge mission of what I do and what PA Made does as a company. My hope is that our Upstream Art Project inspires similar efforts across the greater region and shows people that they really can make a difference.”
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.