SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Local artist have began their inlet masterpieces this week in Downtown Sioux Falls.

“The inlet art project is an annual project we do at the City of Sioux Falls to bring awareness to water quality initiatives and awareness to storm water and pollution and what people can do and shouldn’t do around storm sewer inlets,” Colin Chatterton, Environmental Analyst for the City of Sioux Falls said.

Six artists are painting inlets this year, which is about average, and are expected to have their artwork completed by Monday.

This year, the project also added two students from Memorial Middle School, who painted some inlet lids while in their art class, Chatterton said, and those are located around the middle school.

All of the paint and primer for the program was donated by Norberg Paints, Chatterton said.

The city gives the artist one week, Monday to Monday, to complete their inlet projects, Chatterton said, but if they need more time, they work with the city.

This inlet art program started in 2016 and provides the city with an opportunity to get people thinking about storm sewer inlets and where the storm water goes.

“When we talk about storm water quality we are really talking about what the water is like when it enters the storm sewer and when it leaves the storm sewer and eventually gets into the Big Sioux River,” Chatterton said. “The Big Sioux River is impaired; if you look at a list of impaired waterbodies for the state of South Dakota there is a solids issue and a bacterial issue in the river.”

The artists submit a design to the city about a month before the painting begins, Chatterton said. Then, it gets juried by the Visual Arts Commission and then they usually decide on six or seven designs, notify the artists and prep the inlets with white primer and cone them off. After that, the artists begin their painting.

Jennifer Neitzert is showing the effects pollution can have on our rivers throughout her inlet painting project.

“I love to paint. I’ve never painted, as of last year, painted on a sidewalk before, so that was kind of a new experience and it’s definitely fun to have your art showcased downtown,” Neitzert said.

Neitzerts official inspiration that she summited with her idea is:

“This work shows the effects pollution can have on our rivers. One side shows blue water alongside the plants and animals that come with a clean river. The other side shows a murky river with trash and pollutants causing the river to be dark and not inhabitable. I wanted to show the stark difference between a clean river and a polluted river.”

This is Neitzerts second time painting an inlet for the city. After enjoying it so much last year, she decided to put in a submission again this year.

Neitzert’s design. Image courtesy of Jennifer Neitzert.

Neitzert’s husband is on the city council and she has gotten to be more aware of some of the city projects that are happening, she said.

The artwork needed to be around the theme of keeping the storm drains clean and only “rain-to-drain”, Neitzert said. She used a program on her iPad to make her design, which took her a couple of nights to create.

When she comes out to paint the inlet, it is more freehand, Neitzert said.

“You have like your own little part of the city, this is my own little piece of sidewalk now,” Neitzert said. “Getting to showcase my artwork on our city sidewalks is important too.”

So far, the city has had around 35 inlets painted since the start of the program, but they are not all still painted due to the paint getting old, Chatterton said. They hope to add a school program and get a few more painted every year.

Unfortunately, inlet paint typically only lasts two or three years before they have to remove the paint to prevent it from chipping into the storm sewers, Chatterton said. But, they will keep painting inlets as long as they can.

“This is a program that we don’t want to end and go away and so we will keep pushing this program every year,” Chatterton said.

The city strives to do what it can to improve water quality within city limits, while working with other groups to help push initiatives along the Big Sioux River watershed, Chatterton said.

The city has other projects along with the inlet art project, to educate and keep pollutants out of the storm sewers.

If you are an artists looking to get involved in the program next year, Chatterton said to check the City of Sioux Falls environmental website around the month of April for an announcement.