Rain Barrel

March 23, 2014; Akron Beacon Journal

This past Saturday was World Water Day, a fitting day to visit the painted rain barrel exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

The barrels had been distributed to local residents by the mayor’s Youth Opportunities Unlimited program to help locals to store rainwater for their own use, but they soon became unsightly. Artist Linda Zolten Wood painted her barrel gorgeously enough that neighbors became interested. Soon, she was helping them to transform their own barrels.

One thing led to another and Zolten Wood applied for an artist-in-residence grant for funding to organize a painted barrel auction. Local artists were hired to paint 10 barrels, and they were all auctioned last April at Waterloo Center for the Arts.

While they are both beautiful and in demand, the barrels also help the environment, since the city’s storm water, if it is not repurposed, creates runoff that ends up contaminating Lake Erie with dangerous chemicals, animal waste, and more.

“This slurry, along with excess industrial farm fertilizer, are causing toxic algae blooms, dead zones and endangering the health of our lake,” said Zolten Wood. “I wrote a proposal to create a traveling exhibit for area museums and Metroparks visitors’ centers and have received partial funding to make it happen. Our exhibit will expose many thousands of visitors to the value of using beautiful rain barrels.”

There are 12 hand-painted 55-gallon rain barrels designed by Northeast Ohio artists in this exhibit, which is free to visitors to the museum. The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is a co-sponsor.—Ruth McCambridge