Vermillion Drain Paintings Homage to River
3 mins read

Vermillion Drain Paintings Homage to River

In Vermillion, many of the storm drains are painted with characters such as the Lorax, baby ducks and many other things. 

These storm drain paintings come from a group in Vermillion called Greening Vermillion where their main goal is to raise awareness of where the water from the drains goes. 

Greening board member and the project manager for the Adopt-A-Drain program in Vermillion, Samantha O’Kelley, said the main goal for painting the drains is to raise awareness of what is happening to the Vermillion river. 

“I think most people think that the storm drains lead to some type of treatment plant, but they do not,” O’Kelley said. “The water leads to the Vermillion River. So lawn chemicals, washing your car in your driveway, or blowing leaves into the street sends those things into the Vermillion River.” 

The process to even paint the drains starts on Earth Day where O’Kelley and her team advertised the project. From there, Google Forms were filled out with the artists who were willing to paint the drains and submitted a photo of what they wanted to do. 

O’Kelley said after the Google Forms consisted of talking to the city engineer in Vermillion about what drains they could paint. 

“I had meetings with Jose Dominguez, the city engineer, and we figured out which drains should be painted. Jose knows which drains are getting maintenance or not,” O’Kelley said. 

Following the meeting with Dominguez, O’Kelley said she gave the artist the choice to pick their own drain along with tools provided by not only Greening Vermillion but also the City of Vermillion.

“In some instances, I gave the artists their choice of drain, and some I told them where to paint because it was a drain that the city wanted to see painted because it had a lot of traffic,” O’Kelley said. “There are kits for the artists and they picked up the paints and equipment and painted the drains when they could, and then, they returned the supplies.”

O’Kelley said there isn’t an overall theme for the paintings; however, some of the painters choose a theme for their own drain. 

“Some of the artists like to promote the wildlife in and around the river to raise awareness, so a lot of the paintings have animals and vegetation that the storm water pollution effects.”

With the painters painting different themes, O’Kelley said one of her favorites is the Lorax drain, but she also appreciates the other more abstract paintings. 

“One of my favorites is the Lorax, just generally reminding you that the river takes care of us so we should take care of it,” O’Kelley said. “Some of the artists are a bit more abstract too, like the newest drains on Dakota street have various animals, and the style was inspired by how oil looks on water.”

For more information about either the Adopt-A-Drain project or other projects the team at Greening Vermillion will be putting together, visit their website at or reach out to their email at [email protected]

Photo Credit: Madison Martinez | The Volante