Photo: DC Water

PHOTOS: Art Contest Winners Beautify D.C. Storm Drains

It’s an unexpected sight: a 16-year-old girl on her hands and knees, painting a Washington, D.C. storm drain bright blue.

Yahnae Riddick, a student at Eastern High School in Washington D.C., has been selected as one of five winners of DC Water’s “Cool Arts and Cleaner Rivers” contest. After submitting an entry design to DC Water, each winner was selected by a panel of judges to paint a storm drain along the Northeast Boundary Tunnel. 

To see the winning artists’ completed works of art, click through the gallery:

Right now, DC Water is digging the Northeast Boundary Tunnel in order to improve the functioning of the city’s sewers and the water quality of the Anacostia River. (Click here to see Bay Bulletin’s incredible video of construction underway inside the tunnel.)

DC Water’s Franchesca Thompson says that the goal of the art contest is to “highlight residents and local artists and give them a platform to gain awareness for what they do while also tying in the opportunity to use their creativity to spread awareness for the project.”

At 10 a.m., Yahnae is only a few minutes into painting her mural. It took her three days to meticulously plan the design. With her art teacher looking over her shoulder with obvious pride, Yahnae’s vision is beginning to take shape on the cement. The design she submitted to DC Water is of a woman sitting in the Lotus Pose, hovering directly over a body of water. Leaping out of the water around this central figure are four large fish.

When asked about the inspiration for her work Yahnae says, “All of the water around D.C. is polluted and most of the animals are dying because of what’s in the water.” Yahnae says the painting represents what enjoying the Anacostia River might be like for D.C. residents after the completion of the Northeast Boundary Tunnel.

The other four competition winners also completed their murals along the Northeast Boundary Tunnel this week. Mark Garrett, a long-time DC resident, created a setting sun and sailboat at 1375 Mt. Oliver Road in DC. Nineteen-year-old Sierra Koker’s surreal water droplet and rose-bud filled piece is located at 424 Rhode Island Avenue. Artist Mark Walker, who has worked in a number of different media, painted his bubble-featuring work at 251 Saratoga Avenue. Finally, Mackenzie Mathews, a George Washington University graduate, painted a piece inspired by her childhood spent living on a farm between Rhode Island Avenue and T Street Northwest.

The commissioned works bring beauty to urban streets, but their eye-catching Chesapeake designs also remind everyone just where those storm drains lead.

-CJ Hancock