Clearwater community paint project encourages water-way conservation

Maranda Douglas spread the word about the storm drain murals at community events as well as holding informational sessions, asking residents to submit ideas.

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

CLEARWATER – On Jan. 20, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, FYI Community Partnership, Inc., will hold its third community paint day along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, as part of its “Murals along MLK” and “Reclaim the Drain” storm drain mural projects.

The two mural projects were conceived by FYI’s executive director Maranda Douglas, who joined the organization as its leader last March.

Douglas noted that it was a 2018 Community Assessment that inspired the storm drain mural project. The assessment indicated that residents had a concern about neighborhood flooding, often related to improper drainage due to garbage and refuse in stormwater drains.

Douglas said her idea timed out perfectly with the City of Clearwater’s own Storm Drain Mural Program. “It was just a happy coincidence that the City of Clearwater was also launching their Placemaking initiative, which has made our project easier to execute,” she noted.

On the MyClearwater.com website, it explains: “The water that flows through Clearwater’s storm drains goes directly into the Gulf of Mexico or Tampa Bay without treatment. Therefore, messaging to prevent the disposal of waste in storm drains is pivotal to maintaining safe, clean oceans and beaches.”

Through the city’s project, any group, whether school, community, church or nonprofit, can propose designs. Once the city approves the design, it will provide free traffic safety vests, traffic cones, stencils, Sherwin Williams ProPark traffic paint, paintbrushes gloves, tarps and additional items for the project.

The city’s projects so far had mainly focused in the downtown area, but with FYI’s project spanning along Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue from South Greenwood (Lake Belleview) into North Greenwood, the “Murals along MLK” project became the first to focus on beautifying and addressing water conservation in the black community.

Douglas spread the word about the storm drain murals at community events as well as holding informational sessions, asking residents to submit ideas.  Working with a handful of volunteers and 10 to 15 community members – including parents and children – on Nov. 22, 2019, FYI held its first paint day, creating murals at storm drains around Belmont Park.

A few weeks ago, the second paint day created murals on storm drains around the historic Plumb House Museum.

Douglas has scheduled two more storm drain mural paints for this year, including MLK Day’s paint, which will focus on storm drains around the United Way/police substation at 1310 N Martin Luther King, Jr Ave. There is a final paint day scheduled next month. 

Douglas has continued to search for funding. While the city pays for supplies, FYI covers all community presentation expenses, including advertising, refreshments, and office supplies for the nonprofit. There are also two larger projects coming up.

After the storm drain murals are completed, Douglas is launching a “Painted Intersections” Project, which will paint a large mural right on the intersection of Woodlawn Avenue and South Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue this spring. 

The intersection mural will be followed by two more murals on buildings along Martin Luther King, Jr Avenue. 

But because FYI will need to hire professional artists for these projects, funds must be raised to pay for them and whatever additional material their creations demand.

While it’s been hard work – Douglas has completed the lion’s share of the work promoting, fundraising, and communicating about the event alone – it’s also been informative. Douglas says she learned much about the disconnection between communities and leadership.

“People who live here want to be involved in change, but they haven’t been successful at creating amicable relationships with people of support,” she acknowledged. “That’s where FYI creates a bridge. We serve as someone to sort through the details, push projects along, and advocate for the community we serve.”

Douglas said she was also inspired by “the resounding messages of hope, unity, and a better community that I found in the drawings from the mural meetups.” In Douglas’ view, projects such as the Murals along MLK project are vital because it gives the community a chance to be seen. 

“Oftentimes, projects like these are done in or near high traffic/tourist areas. It also gave the community a chance to be heard and be hands-on in making their requests come to life. Our goal is to be in constant contact with those who will be directly impacted by our work; this dynamic project has proven to be a great way to support all of these things. “

Douglas also hopes the project will allow local artists and activists who are involved to launch their careers and gain more recognition. Two such artists who have so far been involved are Khadija Charleston, who has been the artist bringing initial community ideas to life through her chalk outlines, and Aliyah Van Duyne, a young videographer who has been documenting the project.

Douglas invited community members to come out to help paint the storm drains on MLK Day, Monday, Jan. 20, as well as come to share their ideas for the design for the final paint day project on Feb. 14. 

“At both events, we have invited the potential artists for the painted intersection to come out and get acquainted with the community,” she noted.

For more information, contact Maranda Douglas at 727-315-3069, or email her at admin@fyicp.org. You can also visit them on Facebook.com/FYICP, or visit their website at fyicommunitypartnership.org.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com

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