Lions and Rabbits Storm Drain Initiative

Each summer since 2020, Lions and Rabbits Center for the Arts has partnered with the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds (LGROW) Adopt-A-Drain Program. Lions and Rabbits supports this program by hiring and project managing local artists to paint storm drains around the city of Grand Rapids. This project supports LGROW’s mission promoting clean, safe environments for our families and friends. In 2022 I was one of over 30 artists selected to design and paint a storm drain mural. The designs could be somewhat open-ended as long as they included the theme of water, so I chose to follow my medical illustrator instincts and created a mural that incorporated both water and human anatomy. What better way to do that than with the urinary system? Learn more about the Storm Drain Initiative here.

An illustration by Emily Hromi/Studio Hromi LLC, of a mural design of the urinary system (kidneys, ureters, major vessels) surrounded by waves, droplets, and other water motifs.

In Progress

I worked on the sidewalk mural over the course of three painting sessions. During the first session I primed the 6x6' square, laid down a grid to transfer my design to the sidewalk (in general I'm of the opinion that gridding is cheating, but for such a large scale transfer without the possibility of projection, it seemed like a necessary tool), and sketched in the outlines with yellow paint. During session number two, I started blocking out some of the main colors, but cut it short because I didn't have the right shade of red, and the artery turned out more pastel than intended. During the third and final session, I re-painted all of the red, then pushed through and finished the entirety of the painting (getting very sunburned in the process).

In Conclusion

This was my first introduction to public art of any kind, and it made me want to venture deeper into larger murals, or at the very least participate in the Storm Drain Initiative again should it take place again in the future. I learned a lot about painting on a rough surface, about color matching and paint mixing (turns out I'm very spoiled by digital art), about the importance of sunscreen, and about people's mixed reactions to an artist painting kidneys on the sidewalk. The sidewalk murals that are part of this initiative are intentionally impermanent because of their proximity to the storm drains; we used ecologically friendly water-based paint, and the murals were not sealed. Some murals will last longer than others based on the amount of foot traffic in the area; ultimately all of them will fade and wear down eventually, but I hope to see more and more added each summer if the initiative continues. If you're inclined to see it in person while it lasts, this mural is located at the corner of Eastern and Harvey in Midtown, Grand Rapids.