Downtown Storm Inlet Art Project

Storm Inlet Painting Project 2023

The City of Sioux Falls
In Partnership with the Visual Arts Commission

Purpose of Artwork:

The City of Sioux Falls’ storm drainage system is an important public utility and plays a vital role in public safety by quickly collecting water from precipitation before it can accumulate and cause flooding. However, water that moves through the storm drainage system is discharged directly into the Big Sioux River. Since 2016, the City of Sioux Falls has partnered with local businesses, organizations, and individuals to paint murals on stormwater inlets downtown to help raise awareness of the effect stormwater runoff has on water quality. The purpose of this project is to draw attention to the storm drainage system and to educate the public on the connection between stormwater runoff in Sioux Falls and the Big Sioux River. These paintings are intended to bring awareness to potential pollutants such as litter, debris, and hazardous chemicals entering the storm drainage system. Artists will be asked to propose an inlet location. Location will be contingent on City approval. To find out more about the project, please visit


April 7, 2023: Project announcement 
May 5, 2023, 5 p.m.: Submission deadline
Mid-May 2023: Design selection
June 5 through June 9, 2023: Storm inlet painting (weather permitting) 

Design Details:

The purpose of the design should focus on water quality issues related to waterways or storm drains. The design should warn against undesirable waste in the storm drain, including litter, pet waste, oil, chemicals, and yard waste. Or, the design can communicate how the storm drain leads directly to the Big Sioux River. 

Submitted designs must be completed and in color. Artists are encouraged to create simple clean design themes with solid color palettes and limited text. Submissions must include an attachment of one 8.5" x 11" illustration or photograph of the proposed artwork to keep on file. Artists may submit multiple entries. Only one entry per artist may be selected. Designs should include the entire top portion of the inlet lid. Manhole covers may also be painted. Painting the adjacent sidewalk or any area outside of the inlet lid will not be allowed. Also, painting the inside of the inlet will not be allowed. Artists are asked not to include any copyright characters or designs in their design (e.g., Disney characters, etc.). All designs should be original. 

Selected artists will be able to pick up paint from Sherwin-Williams Co on Minnesota Ave free of charge. Please limit color selection to four or five choices. Photos of the selected and completed storm drains will be posted to the City’s website and social media accounts. Each of the six selected artists will receive $200 compensation for their design and painting. Inlet covers will be prepped for painting by City staff with a clear prime coat. Please note, there is a two-year expectancy for the artwork. After the two years, the inlet will be prepped for the next art installation. There will be an inlet reserved for youth submissions under the age of 18. An additional youth winner may be selected if there are large numbers of submissions from teenagers. If you or your organization would like to be considered for this category, please indicate this on your application submission with appropriate age of applicant.
Please contact the City of Sioux Falls Public Works Environmental Division with any questions regarding your design.


Application Process:

Submissions may be hand-delivered or mailed to Jose Alvarez at 1017 East Chambers Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57104, or emailed to with the subject “Storm Inlet Painting Submission 2023.” Designs must be submitted by 5 p.m. on May 5th, 2023. The following information must be included for your submission to be considered:

  • Name.
  • Address.
  • Phone number.
  • Link to portfolio (or attach/include design[s]).
  • Short statement about inspiration for design.
  • Attached colored 8.5" x 11" illustration or photograph of artwork to keep on file.
  • Indicate if you’re submitting as an adult or youth—Please specify age if youth.
  • Proposed inlet location—General area of preference with final selection of inlet by City staff.
    • Areas to consider—Downtown Sioux Falls, near parks, adjacent to major waterways, etc.
    • Emphasis on downtown area remains, but other locations will be considered for approval.

Judging/Awards Criteria:

The design submissions will be juried by the Sioux Falls Visual Arts Commission in partnership with the Sioux Falls Stormwater Management Program. Selection criteria will include, but will not be limited to, the following:

  1. Appropriateness—How is the content or obvious symbolism of the proposed piece of artwork appropriate for those who will view the art, and is it within the context of the site where it will be viewed? Is the artwork in concert with the theme?
  2. Relevance—Does the artwork seem particularly relevant to the place where it will be displayed or the public who will view it?
  3. Site plan—Does the scale of the artwork fit appropriately within and complement and/or enhance the physical location where it will be placed?
  4. Visibility/impact—Does the proposed location offer high visibility and/or impact to the public?
  5. Execution—Ability to competently execute the proposed design on the medium of concrete (storm inlet). 

Jose Alvarez
City of Sioux Falls
1017 East Chambers Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57104



Artist: David Verstoppen

Inspiration of this art everything is connected, and we should take care of our water sources because ultimately if we don’t it will end up harming us in the end. 


Inspiration of this art everything is connected, and we should take care of our water sources because ultimately if we don’t it will end up harming us in the end. 


Artist: Brady Aldrich


I am inspired for my storm drain design by the recreation side of the Big Sioux River. I want to erase the stigma behind not being able to use the river for transportation / recreation and encourage more citizens to be aware that, with local advocacy, we can safely float our way down the Big Sioux River again!


Artist: Carita Haak


Party Crab is a character I co-created years ago that I've drawn hundreds of times to spread happiness and kindness. Once I knew that Party Crab would be the perfect spokescrab for water cleanliness, I decided to add a couple more aquatic friends who are showing exactly how everyone can help keep our rivers clean. And as I learned about the different ways our water can become polluted, I realized these things were why the Falls look so gross, instead of clear and healthy. So if I didn't want the water to touch me, I could imagine the animals relying on the Falls would feel similar, which is how I came up with the tagline.


Artist: Clara Carlson (#1)


The first design depicts a pop can that has sunk to the bottom of a body of water. It has tentacles that protrude from it, a feature not typically found in the aquatic life local to Sioux Falls. I wanted to represent how litter is similar to an invasive species that is harmful to the life that lives in and around the river, which Is where trash ends up when it goes down the storm drain. 

Artist: Clara Carlson (#2)


The next design is of a fish trapped in a bottle. I wanted to portray a direct relationship between trash and the wildlife in the river, and how it can leave animals helpless to their situation without any way of freeing themselves. If their home becomes Litter Central, they are powerless to stop or prevent it and nowhere to go if it gets worse.

Artist: Clara Carlson (#3)


This next design of flying fish is a more abstract approach. My goal here was to indirectly claim that pollution entering storm drains and exiting into the river can be harmful to fish to the point of being deadly. If we aren’t more mindful of this issue, the fish could very well end up swimming in the sky as little fish angels instead of in the river where they should be. 

Artist: Clara Carlson (#4)


My final design depicts a mermaid swimming through various pieces of litter. The mermaid idea intrigues me because she is part fish, but also part human, and encourages the viewer to be more empathetic to connect to her as a fellow person rather than a wild animal. I really wanted to say, “ if the river were your home, would you want people polluting it?”


Artist: Rae Kopf

The moments where I see animals being forced to be coexist with pieces of garbage, such as the ducks in this concept, are the moments where I am most aware of the human impact on the Big Sioux. My hope is that this painting will be a reminder of the river's inhabitants in the urban setting. Bringing empathy to a point of where littering occurs -- the storm drains -- is the best method of stopping it.



Artist: Emilie Nettinga

The inspiration behind my submission can be said in different ways. A verse in a song, “Even when the storm comes, I am washed by the water”
But the quote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain, offers a similar message. 
I wanted to design an upbeat, positive image after a couple of hard years for people and to celebrate clean rain water! We have to celebrate the good with the bad, and as we combat water pollution, we have to remember all the good that is being done to keep water clean too!


Artist: Meagan Turbak

There is a message in a bottle with this design. I want people to understand that we must keep our water and community clean to protect the lifestyles we like to live. The big Sue is not just a landmark it is a place where families, friends, and visitors gather to create long lasting memories. I am so grateful for the opportunity to play a part in spreading the message to protect our environment so generations can create these memories just like we have.



Artist: Tyson Shultz

My submission for the storm drains, is a black/white piece of a fish coming to the surface, with a skeletal version appearing in its reflection. This piece is to show what may happen if we don't take care of our environment, and the river in particular.


Artist: Kaylee Marie Leonard

I thought that since Falls Park is a main attraction for Sioux Falls, the illustration would emphasize the importance of keeping the storm drains clean. Falls park would be incredibly affected by the littering of waterways, decreasing the beauty and quality of the river. I added in animals such as a deer, bird and fish to tie in the type of wildlife that relies on it the most in our area. As a result, I hope it provides a sense of unity between nature and trademark attractions that we love dearly.



Artist: Michelle Macias

My design has the entire ecosystem in mind. I wonder what chemicals and the less obvious pollutants are doing to not only our water but the land and air as well. The top right corner represents all the garbage, chemicals, and pollution that want to seep into the environment. The line of people represent how it is up to us humans to keep the wildlife safe from it.


Artist: Lacey Wright

Piece illustrates the idea of the need to "water" our community by giving back in different ways.


Artist: Jennifer Neitzert

This work shows the effects pollution can have on our rivers. One side shows blue water alongside the plants and animals that come with a clean river. The other side shows a murky river with trash and pollutants causing the river to be dark and not inhabitable. I wanted to show the stark difference between a clean river and a polluted river.


Artist: Emilie Nettinga

As a dog owner and amateur compost enthusiast, I have recently been learning about pet waste and its harmful components. I wanted to design something simple that could be located near the new downtown Kirby Dog Park at Fort Sod. IT is not only courteous to clean up after our pets, but it will keep our bodies and environments healthier and happier.

emilie-nettinga 2021

Artist: Sierra Vilhauer

My design represents how the trash commonly found in the river is distracting from the natural beauty of our environment. This is represented by how the fish and the trash are combined into one. It is a good reminder to protect nature and be mindful of where you put your waste. Additionally, I contrasted the "fish" with the background and instead of having them flow with the river, I made them more stiff and unnatural. This drives the point home that trash is not supposed to be in the river.


Artist: Clara Carlson

The design for the water Buffalo design is loosely inspired by how animal waste has a negative impact on water pollution, as well as how water impacts animals and why we should care about water quality.



Artist: Adam Beilke

This concept of "Waterworks" shows how water connects with virtually everything. My trademark mascot, Planter, represents knowledge and overall growth. Without even thinking about it, the abstract sense of water given by the organic blue shapes gives off a sense that it's causing minds to blossom and everything connects.


Artist: Emily Buehler

With this design, I wanted to emphasize our connection with the water and wildlife in our river. Our river is a big part of our community and we use it for many things like fishing and kayaking. By reminding people that the river is connected with us, we can be more mindful of littering.


Artist: Jennifer Neitzert

This design includes simple, but recognizable objects. I put natural objects that are important to the environment. The design represents our need for roads, but our need to keep nature clean.


Artist: Kristine Reiner

The scene above is meant to demonstrate the human control over animal life. Our carelessness leaves detrimental impacts to these environments, we need to realize our actions have global repercussions. The fish above aren’t able to distinguish what is safe and what is a hazard, the responsibility falls on us alone. Once they cross into the plastic side, we can’t get them back.


Artists: Lindsey Conrad/ Kieran Tate

Inspired the City’s motto ‘Taking Care of Today for a Better Tomorrow’, we wanted to focus on the importance of our responsibility to take care of our City and its environment. Keeping our water and rivers clean starts with each citizen. For the visual side of things, I combined different geometric and organic patterns in each square to create contrast and help the text stand out. The different squares and patterns represent the uniqueness and complexity of our community, but keeping the design in three different shades of blue helps tie everything together and show that we can all work together to create change.


Artist: Amy Longo

This simple design was intended to remind the viewer of where the storm drains lead. When they see the drain, they will see the river.


Artist: Josephine Woodson

One of my science teachers always taught us the importance of keeping our waters clean, from the lakes, rivers, streams and of course the oceans! The Big Sioux is a wonderful part of Sioux Falls and keeping it clean is so important for the wildlife and future generations to enjoy!



Artist: Brett Hanes

I combined geometric shapes with a minimal, bright color palette to create a sense of unity in my design. Some elements are more easily identified, while others are more ambiguous as to whether they are part of nature, or human waste. Some pollution is easy to see, but much of it is invisible to the naked eye.


Artist: Carly Ribstein

My proposed design shows a loop between the road and the river, both populated with life. This design reminds viewers where our streets' water leads to, and shows both communities thriving in coexistence. 


Artist: Molly O’Connor

I approached this project using bold visuals and a limited color palette. I kept the imagery simple and symbolic to narrate the relationship between land, water, and living creatures. Using color blocking and lines to move the viewer's eye through the piece, I illustrated the connection between all things.


Lan Yan

Water is a big part of our lives, be it from daily consumption or the weather. In this design, at first glance, viewers see rain boots reflected by the shallow puddles of rain. But as we look closer, these pools of water actually house fish, who depend on the same water we come in contact with. This acts as a reminder to pause and reflect on the fact that we share this resource with nature.  


Ashton Dockendorf

I wanted to visually emphasis the connection between the river and humanity. In this piece, the river is “literally” born from the free-flowing hair of the woman, who stands submerged in her own river. She reaches out to touch the sky, once again establishing the connection between Mother Earth and us.


Addison Brower

Addison loves art, fishing and the outdoors. She has learned to keep the environment clean and protect wildlife by attending classes at The Outdoor Campus. Her interest in art and wildlife were her inspiration for the design. The fish are crying because litter is polluting their environment and they can't clean up the mess themselves.



Artist:  Tabatha Elliot

“I love art, and I wanted to draw something different and beautiful”

Tabatha Elliot

Artist:  Denise Patton

“Protect the Big Sioux- Let’s keep the streets neat! The image shown in this design is meant to share the impact of garbage on our aquatic wildlife. By keeping our streets neat-we can avoid polluting the river.”

Denise Patton

Artist:  Gregory Patton

Only rain down the drain! The design is simple and clear, yet distinguishable. This encourages citizens to recognize that by saying ONLY rain down the drain…means that other things are not meant to end up in our storm drains. Hopefully, the colors and bold print make an impact.”

Gregory Patton

Artist:  Sharon Wegner-Larsen

“I'm a Sioux Falls artist and I frequently explore nature and environmental themes in my work. I couldn't pass up the chance to use my artwork for science communication and conservation purposes!”

Sharon Wegner-Larsen

“My design is of a kayaker on the water because my husband and I love to float down the Big Sioux River! It seems to be a very popular sport in Sioux Falls.”

Sharon Wegner-Larsen 2


Artist: Leah Simmons

Drawing my inspiration from sidewalk chalk artists and the great Dr. Seuss, my piece is focused on showing pedestrians the “face” of litter and other waste that ends up in the Big Sioux. I would like to position the piece in such a way as to appear to be looking up at the viewer, as if the storm inlet is more like an open square of water, polluted with the trash commonly throw in the street. Like the Lorax, my little sad-faced fish is trying his best to warn people of the impact of their actions, in a way that is easy to translate no matter what age the viewer.



Artist: Melanie Ratzlaff

I wanted to do a design that focused on the fish that live in the river and give a visual to things that should not go in the drains. By keeping the bad out, we can preserve the beauty of the river. 


Artist: Rain White

I immediately thought of this idea when I heard of the project. It was inspired by one of my favorite artists who recently completed a series of drawings on the effects of poor environmental care on animals, using the contrasting colors of blue and red. The effect is quite dramatic, albeit simple. I drew a Walleye fish; common to our area, in blue. Then on the inside is filled with the type of trash that would typically get washed away off the street, in ends up in the bellies of these beautiful fish, not to mention polluting our river. I hope the simple yet stark contrast will be a memorable visual for passersby. 


Artist: ShaniaTran (youth submission)

I'm always inspired by hand drawings! I feel as though it captivates people to want to see the art piece and its message behind it.