Thursday, May 23, 2024

The ecology behind sidewalk murals

Whitefish Pilot | May 7, 2024 1:45 PM

Paintbrushes, frog wizards, pollution and Whitefish Lake — if you’re wondering what the missing link is here, a Whitefish High School advanced art student might be able to tell you. 

For the past few weeks, unpredictable spring weather pending, advanced art students have spread out across downtown Whitefish to revitalize sidewalk murals that were painted above storm drains in 2022. The murals can be found on Railway, First and Second streets.

The murals are meant to bring attention to nonpoint source pollution. This type of pollution includes trash, oil, pet waste, fertilizer and natural debris that flows into storm drains and is then carried directly into Whitefish River, Whitefish Lake and other bodies of water – without any treatment. 

“It is a reminder to our neighborhoods, our visitors and our residents, to think about what we put into storm drains and how it impacts our ecosystems. Our local waterways are connected,” said Durae Belcer of Whitefish Lake Institute.  

Now, in 2024, Kniveton is seeing to it that the art's ecological message stays intact. This year, 6 pairs of students are teaming up to bring new life to the faded murals. Students who contributed to the 2024 project include Elias Anderson, Jesse Burrough, Scott Dalen, Signe Ebbett, Lauren Fairbanks, Maeve Ingelfinger, Ella Kincheloe, Amelia Krezowski, Deneb Linton, Kylie Murehead, Matthew Ramsey, Remy Retke, Avrey Simpson, Bugs Sisson, Ella Walker, Colby Wharton, Isabella Wilson and Aspen Yaeck. 

Frogs, bears, fish, lilies are just a few of the plants and animals that rely on our waterways, and thus are the subjects of several murals. 

“They had to create imagery that shows that animals and plants depend on our water. The river and lake are a life source,” Kniveton said.

Equipped with a plan to paint frogs on top of one of the preexisting murals, one team labeled their supplies with “frog wizards.” Before taking to the streets, each team also first had to draw up plans for reviving the original paintings, some of which were only a little faded; others, nearly erased. 

The medium of traffic paint presents another interesting challenge for the young artists to work around. Working with only the three primary colors, “the consistency makes mixing more of a challenge,” one student said. 

Kniveton says that she hopes to continue the project throughout the years as paintings fade and new students come and go.

    Ella K. and Aspen Y. showcase their watercolor design that they plan to paint (Kelsey Evans/Whitefish Pilot).
    An array of supplies for sidewalk murals (Kelsey Evans/Whitefish Pilot).
    Elias Anderson begins to paint over an old mural (Kelsey Evans/Whitefish Pilot). 
    Isabella Wilson sketching turtles with chalk prior to painting (Kelsey Evans/Whitefish Pilot).
    Kylie M. and Bugs S. show their plan for their mural on the first day of painting (Kelsey Evans/Whitefish Pilot).
    Maeve Ingelfinger begins works on a colorful fish (Kelsey Evans/Whitefish Pilot).