This blog was contributed by Amelia Matier, a long-term Green Light Volunteer.
As Green Light New Orleans begins its rain barrel installation pilot program this spring, the local non-profit is enlisting the help of community volunteers to lend their creative skills to the practical water-saving and stormwater management program.
These used food-grade barrels were procured from the French Quarter’s Central Grocery, and local artists are transforming them into one-of-a-kind environmentally friendly works of art.
“We want them to look nice and for people to enjoy using them,” said Megan Bayha, Green Light New Orleans’ Garden Coordinator. With the expertise of a local volunteer, Bruce Presson, Green Light decided to paint the barrels to add a unique flair to the highly functional project.
Co-workers Elizabeth Janica, Sarah Charles, Shannon Haley, Carly Perkins and Alex Samples were some of the first volunteers to add their designs to the barrels. Organized through work, the five local women and hobby artists painted several barrels set to be installed in homes around New Orleans.
“I am excited because I think it is a great environmental cause and people in this city will appreciate the artwork” said New Orleanian Elizabeth Janica. “It’s a two-fer!”
With varying artistic backgrounds and a common interest in visual creativity and environmentalism, the women jumped head first into the painting challenge.
“I have installed light bulbs in the past” said West Bank resident Alex Samples, referencing Green Light’s original light bulb exchange program. “So I knew a little bit about Green Light. I think painting is therapeutic and I wanted to learn more about the program.”
For her design, Samples let the relaxing mood of the afternoon guide her work. “I just started painting colors and then realized it looked like a sunset,” said Samples. “From there I thought of summertime and I added the fireflies.”
Inspired by the project’s water-saving mission, Janica created an under-the-sea themed barrel complete with layered blue waves and swimming fish. “I want to make an impact on preserving rain water so I represented the sea in my design.”
Carly Perkins, also a Louisiana native, gravitated to the multipurpose aspect of the rain barrel project. “I have always had an interest in art; I studied it in college. I was excited for the opportunity to do something creative and good for the earth.”
With the encouragement of her co-workers Perkins painted a nighttime city-scape, “It was fun to get to know each other better and talk about what we were painting.”
Influenced by New Orleans’ rich musical culture, Sharon Haley’s put her fine-art background to work painting silhouettes of jazz musicians around her barrel.
“I was actually inspired by the Zatarain’s box!” she said. “I was trying to represent the local culture and make it fun.”
As the afternoon came to a close the volunteers walked out of Green Light with an excitement for where their painted barrels would end up and the goals of the program.
“The participation definitely made me more aware of water conservation,” Samples said. All four women agreed the painted barrels would add interest to the earth-friendly cause.
“I want to drive around and see if I spot mine or the ones other people have done!” said Perkins.
You can watch out for the colorful rain barrels connected to home downspouts around town this spring. For more information about the rain barrels or other Green Light New Orleans programs, visit www.greenlightneworleans.org.