Save it for a Sunny Day

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 at 3:15 PM
Save it for a Sunny Day by Mary Birdsong
clyde robinson

Rain gets a bad rap. Some of us grumble about it when it ruins our plans; others — gardeners most specifically — feel differently. But if a season’s rainfall is uneven, with too much then and not enough now, even they get grumpy. To the rescue is the once old-fashioned rain barrel that collects rain when it’s plentiful and stores it for when it’s not.

Barrels are making a deserved comeback; they were smart in the past and they’re even smarter today, with rising municipal water prices and shortages making headlines. There’s nothing like free water to a gardener or anyone else who uses water in their yard.

To encourage a greater usage of rain barrels in the region, the Erie County Conservation District and Environment Erie have joined forces to spread the gospel of their advantages to the general public.

Dubbed “Don’t Give Up the Drip,” they’ve designed a public art project, a la Go Fish! and Leapfrog, in which 50 artists will be given unadorned plastic rain barrels for them to re-imagine into works of art.

Kristen Currier, Environmental Educator at the ECCD, says that the project will directly address the need for community education about the necessity of clean water and also the harvesting of rainwater for various uses. “Our hopes are that having the artistic barrels installed in public locations will inspire more people to save and reuse rainwater, putting it back into the water table, rather than clogging our overloaded storm sewer systems.”

Artists wishing to be considered must submit an application that includes a rendering of the proposed artwork and a recent CV, resume or biography highlighting past public art projects and related professional experience. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, and must live or maintain a studio address in Erie County. There is no registration fee and applications must be submitted by Oct. 30. A $600 stipend will help the artist cover costs and pay for their time and talent.

For those wishing to be involved in other ways, sponsorships are available in two flavors. For those wishing to display a finished barrel at a business or agency, host sponsorships are $200. Businesses or agencies wishing to financially support the project without hosting a barrel have sponsorship opportunities from $200 — which supports a barrel for another organization — up to $1,500.

An artist information sheet and sponsorship forms are available at Completed sponsorship forms or artist applications may be sent by email to or by mail to Kristen Currier, ECCD, 927 Wager Rd., Erie, PA, 16509. In-person deliveries should be taken to Nate Millet at the EnvironmentErie offices in the Tom Ridge Environmental Center, 302 Peninsula Dr.

For artists, the work begins around Nov. 30 when they will be notified and barrels will be available. The fun begins for everyone else when the works will be revealed with a big splash in a public exhibition and reception at the Home and Garden Show in March.

When the show is over, the barrels will make their way to their permanent homes, just in time to capture those important April showers, that, ya’ know, bring May flowers.

Mary Birdsong can be contacted at, and you can follow her on Twitter @Mary_Birdsong.

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