Darienne Montgomery, 26, of Lynchburg, is one of six local artists selected to paint storm drains along Fort and Park avenues throughout the month of October to remind people that everything going into the drain flows into the James River.
Lynchburg Water Resources and the James River Council for the Arts and Humanities selected artists after holding a call for submissions where they exhibited their themes and ideas for the storm drains.
Artists were encouraged to think of creative ways to translate one of several themes into artwork to reflect the importance of keeping storm drains free of dirt, trash, oil, grease, pesticides, fertilizer, pet waste and other contaminants, according to a news release from Lynchburg Water Resources.
As a cancer survivor, Montgomery had been looking for ways to safely get back out into her community during COVID-19.
"I finished my chemo treatments about two months ago, so I was looking for ways I could reintegrate myself back into normal life and especially when it comes to my art and being able to share my artwork with more people," Montgomery said.
Rivers hold a special place in Montgomery's heart. She grew up on the James River and lived on it throughout college in Richmond, has lived on the French Broad River and been a raft guide along the Nantahala River.
"I think that we've had a disconnect with nature and the fact that it provides us with all our daily necessities from brushing our teeth, taking a shower, providing us food, and nourishment," Montgomery said. "And I think the disconnect has bled into people not thinking about the fact that anything that's on our roads goes into the storm drains and directly goes into the James River."
The streets and sidewalks of Lynchburg are connected to the James River by a network of over 15,000 stormwater drains. So whenever it rains, all the water — and whatever else is in the drain, including trash, oil, gasoline and natural debris — is carried directly to the James River, according to Lynchburg Water Resources.
"I just think it's really important that people have this awareness so hopefully we can get back to a place where it would be safe for us to enjoy the river like our ancestors did," Montgomery said.