Turning Storm Drains into Art

At first glance, storm drains and their unglamorous job of transporting stormwater runoff do not seem like catalysts for environmental activism. Yet, Tualatin Riverkeepers (TRK) has embraced storm drains as canvasses to raise awareness about local water quality. TRK, in partnership with Centro Cultural de Washington County and Muslim Educational Trust (MET), is one of six recipients for Metro’s Community Placemaking Grants.

TRK partnered with Centro, MET, and the cities of Tigard and Hillsboro to select two artists to create multicultural sidewalk murals that appeal to keeping our storm drains free from polluted runoff. With this grant, local artists Kanaan Kanaan and Linda Sawaya will each create one sidewalk storm drain mural that will raise awareness about stormwater pollution in the Tualatin River watershed while celebrating the artistic and cultural heritage of Latinx and Muslim communities in Washington County.

This grant will fund a pilot mural project in downtown Hillsboro and downtown Tigard, where each artist will work with the community in each city to install one sidewalk mural that highlights the importance of storm drains and prevents pollution in our waterways.

In Tigard, Mr. Kanaan’s sidewalk mural is inspired by the concept of intersectionality and symbolism from Islam. Kanaan says, “In my work, I would bring intersectionality to its fullest to work on beautifying our city and bring attention to the importance of clean water and healthy community.”

Kanaan pg1

Ms. Sawaya’s storm drain mural will be created in Hillsboro using color, texture and pattern to celebrate cultural water symbols from indigenous Latin American communities. “I love the Tualatin River,” she says, “especially as a new kayaker in the river. The opportunity of bringing awareness to the importance of keeping our rivers clean through an art mural with Latinx cultural symbolism is an honor and a blessing.”

Linda Sawaya

TRK hopes these murals will strengthen the ties between communities living along the Tualatin River and foster a sense of place for immigrant communities in the county. This artwork will serve as a multilingual educational tool to remind the public that storm drains carry stormwater runoff (e.g. oil, lawn chemicals, trash, sediments) directly to the waterways we use in our everyday life for drinking and recreation.

Meet artist Linda Sawaya when she displays her work in downtown Hillsboro as part of Hillsboro’s Tuesday Night Market on August 7, 2018.  Learn more at www.tuesdaymarketplace.org.

For more information about this collaborative and creative project, connect with Ruby at ruby@tualatinriverkeepers.org.   Be sure to check out our social media pages for more updates.


Tualatin Riverkeepers (TRK) is a non-profit organization dedicated to holistic watershed management for the benefit of communities in the Tualatin River Basin. TRK’s mission is to protect, restore and enjoy the Tualatin River. Its four programs include: recreation, restoration, watershed watch/advocacy and environmental education. TRK is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement for clean water. This project is funded through Metro’s Community Placemaking Grants.