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Otto, Stormy and Festus featured on completed storm drains

STAFF • Oct 17, 2019 at 11:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The second annual Storm Drain Art Contest is complete and the public is encouraged to visit the drains and pick a favorite.

Drain locations include:

· Cedar Street —  artist Juanita Mitchell

· Kingsport Carousel — artist Team Public Works

· Civic Auditorium — artist Lauren Whipple

· Kingsport Higher Education Center — artist Lydia Pruett

· KATS Transit Center — artist Joel Hammitt

All of the drain designs are unique — there are native animals, city mascots and a memorial to Otto the otter. The educational message of the importance of stormwater is seen on each drain, too.

“I researched animals that have the Holston River as their habitat and would be affected by what is put into the river. I then incorporated some of them into the design,” Mitchell said of her drain on Cedar Street. “I loved engaging with the community. Each animal is labeled as a direct result of my interactions with the people from the neighborhood.”

While there are two drains that feature otters, one is an artist’s dedication to the late Otto.

“When brainstorming ideas for the design, I knew I wanted to do a memorial for the late Otto the otter at Bays Mountain,” Whipple said of her Civic Auditorium drain. “I wanted to keep his memory alive in an uplifting, informational way.”

For the first time, a team was formed to tackle the task of painting a storm drain.

“Team Public Works’ entry was inspired by Jenna McConnell, first-grade student at Andrew Johnson Elementary,” said Sheila Catron, one of the artists of the Carousel drain. “We worked and painted on the drain as a team, but Jessica Fry was really the one who took Jenna’s inspiration to action.”

With the success of the second year of the storm drain contest, the Stormwater Department plans to hold the contest again next year.

“I hope that the work of these wonderfully talented artists will not only educate but also brighten someone’s day as they stroll past places like the Civic Auditorium or the Transit Center,” said Amanda McMullen, stormwater quality control technician for Kingsport Public Works.

Sponsors for this contest were all local businesses and include Bank of Tennessee, Kingsport Imaging, Bishop & Company, Now or Never Tattoo Gallery, VIPSeen and Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts.

What is stormwater?

As Kingsport grew, the ground became covered with asphalt, concrete and buildings. Without realizing it, an important part of the water cycle was disturbed. Instead of rain naturally filtering into the ground, it flows over roofs, driveways and streets as stormwater. Stormwater can pick up pollutants and transport them into local waterways via the storm drain system. Pollutants include everyday items like pesticides or fertilizers in our yards, oil in our cars and even soap. When introduced into the waterway, pollutants have a harmful effect on aquatic life and the health of our rivers.

For more information on stormwater in Kingsport, please visit www.kingsporttn.gov.