Sustainability

Lake Superior Stormwater Chalkfest

Annmarie Geniusz turtle

The City of Duluth’s first ever Lake Superior Stormwater Chalkfest has successfully come to a close with seventeen different groups participating over a week-long period. Chalkfest was meant to literally “draw” attention to how we impact local waterways, asking participants to consider their relationship to Lake Superior and surrounding streams and creeks. Everyone in Duluth is connected to Lake Superior. Our roads, sidewalks, parking lots, and yards all drain to local streams and ultimately to the lake, yet we often don't see or think of these connections. As a result, many of our waterways are polluted due to human activities: what can we do to help?

Chalk Fest asked participants to draw an image or write a phrase that shows their relationship and/or connection to local streams and Lake Superior. Some guiding prompts included:

  • How to protect our local streams and Lake Superior
  • What you appreciate about our streams or Lake Superior
  • Your vision for a healthier and more sustainable future for our water
  • Anything else our local waterways inspire within you!
Northern Expressions Art Collective
Annmarie Geniusz pumpkin

Examples of taglines some chose to include:

  • Clean Stormwater is Superior Water
  • What’s in the street goes to our creeks
  • There is no Poop Fairy
  • You are the solution to stormwater pollution

From September 25th through October 2nd, an estimated 300 people participated. The groups ranged from independent artists to local middle and high schools, organizations such as the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) and Ecolibrium3, and various student clubs at the University of Minnesota Duluth, among others.

Throughout the week groups were able to choose where they wanted to draw, which resulted in a large geographic scope of chalk drawings. From Chambers Grove Park in the Fond du Lac neighborhood to sidewalks near Lester Park Elementary and plenty of places in between, many areas of the city were decorated with vibrant chalk drawings showing appreciation for Lake Superior. Some groups chose to educate the public with their chalk drawings, pointing out nearby rain gardens, impermeable surfaces and storm drains. Others focused on highlighting how we harm waterways, drawing pictures of pollution, oil spills and litter. Many drew what Lake Superior - and water as a whole - means to them. Throughout the week, our city sidewalks depicted drawings of agates, the Lift Bridge at sunset, paddleboarders, aquatic life, and so much more.

UMD Sustainability students

Chalkfest was met with a high level of interest from community members and local organizations, which leaves us hoping this could become an annual event. Using our artistic creativity to demonstrate just how much Lake Superior means to us, and in turn, how important it is to protect, was a unique opportunity that we hope to see more of in the future.