Three storm drains located on State Street near the Pine Bluff Civic Center complex are sporting new paint jobs after a couple of students at Pine Bluff High School and an art teacher at White Hall High School spent a number of hours decorating them.

Lee Anderson, the staff chair and Cooperative Extension Agent for Jefferson County, said the idea behind the art is to make people stop and think about where the water flows after it enters a storm drain.

Ashia Shelton and Justin Thomasson, both 10th graders at Pine Bluff High School, and John Bowman, who is the art teacher at White Hall High School, signed up for the project after Anderson said the extension service put out the word they were looking for artists. Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth gave her approval for the work to be done.

According to her resume, Shelton began painting at the age of seven due to the influence of her mother, who is also an artist. As she grew older, she was introduced to different illustrators and painters and developed her own style. She also was involved in other forms of art, such as classical music that she was exposed to at W.T. Cheney Elementary School. She began to play the violin, and since then has wanted to go to a design school such as Rhode Island School of Design or the School for Visual Arts, where she will major in illustration and graphic design.

Since she has been playing the violin for a decade, she would also like to major in Music Composition or Music History.

Thomasson said in his resume that “my passion for art is exquisite. I am an artist at heart and love to draw, sketch, mold, architecture, cartoonist and love to make things.”

He said he has been drawing since he was 3 years old and has won numerous awards — his work has been displayed at both Jack Robey Jr. High School and Pine Bluff High School for homecoming and other events.

He is a member of the National Honor Society, Art Club, Destination Imagination and has been involved in Gifted and Talented since kindergarten.

“I feel honored and privileged to display my artistic abilities on the storm drains in my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where I was born and raised,” he said. “I look forward to future endeavors displaying my work in Pine Bluff.”

Thomasson said his ultimate goal is to become an artist/engineer with an emphasis on becoming a cartoonist, as well as architecture/engineering.

Anderson said he hopes that when residents see the brightly painted storm drains they think about the fact that the water from those drains flows untreated to creeks, streams, lakes and rivers. He wants people to be more conscious of the fact that potential pollutants can enter those waterways.

Water from the storm drains in Pine Bluff flows into the Hardin Drain and eventually reaches Bayou Bartholomew, he said.

According to the extension service, storm water that flows into the drains carries sediment from constructing sites and other surfaces, such as streets and parking lots, as well as pesticides and fertilizers that many homeowners use on their lawns. They join such things as pet waste, grass clippings and petroleum wastes in the water.

When those pollutants enter into an area which supplies drinking water, the cost to treat that water increases significantly, and Anderson said painting the storm drains is one way the extension service is trying to get the word out about being careful of what goes into the drains.