‘Surreal’ public art campaign lights up Elgin storm sewers

Elgin officials wouldn’t normally be thrilled to see a woman playing with spray cans and painting the sidewalk on Big Timber Road.

“It’s a little surreal,” said Amanda Harris, assistant to the city manager for special projects and the arts, as she watched Chicago artist Ali Cantarella hold up a pair of purple paint cans to pose the firsts. layers of his project around the corner. of Big Timber and Lyle Avenue.

Cantarella was one of 10 artists to paint storm sewers around town as part of a public art campaign that aims to raise awareness about stormwater and storm sewers as part of its new work program.

Twenty-seven locations were chosen, but Harris said they were prepared to do up to 40 if community members or businesses nominate one in their neighborhood. Work will continue throughout the month.

“When we started this in March, it wasn’t that big, but the submissions we received were so amazing that we changed the program to allow more of this amazing art,” Harris said. “Seeing him come in is pretty awesome. “

Cantarella was working on her second drain. The first was near Elgin High School.

“It’s a bit like graffiti in street art which would be frowned upon, except it’s approved and funded by the city, which I find very funny,” she said. “It’s really cool, but also very interesting as a change of perspective on what art is and what graffiti is.”

Its design, titled “Flash Flood”, features purple and blue storm clouds with yellow flashes, the clouds merging with the image of a face. “It personifies the power and strength of women and the tumultuous nature of a flash flood,” she said.

Cantarella said the experience was not exactly what she expected.

“Everything has been more difficult than expected,” she said. “It was more paint than I thought I needed, more time, harder on my body, harder, dirtier surfaces.”

“I don’t know what I was expecting because it is a storm drain after all,” she added.

Nearby, in the Providence neighborhood, 16-year-old artist Emalee Veerkamp of Osgood, Indiana was working on the second of her three art installations. Her high school art teacher discovered the public art campaign and asked her students to submit proposals as a school project.

“I’m from a very small town,” she said, “and I’d love to take that back and do something like that over there.”

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