White River Alliance Produces Citywide Canoe Art Exhibit

Writer / Ely Ayers
Photographer / Jon Ellegood

The Hoosier State has a problem. Within the last four years the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the primary body in charge of monitoring water quality across the state, has determined that inadequate treatment of human sewage presents severe problems with providing adequate drinking water to its citizens. With a rapidly growing population, the state faces an uphill battle that will take a community to conquer.White River Alliance

With growing concerns about water pollution and toxicity in the community’s rivers and streams, residents are taking initiative and rising to the challenge by creating and promoting the White River Alliance, a group focused on the preservation and protection of local water resources.

For the second year in a row, the White River Alliance produced a citywide art exhibit that featured hand-painted canoes in anchor locations along the city’s waterways. The project, known as White River Art Canoes, was created to raise awareness of recent reinvestment and reinvigoration of Indiana’s waterways. Boone County resident Melanie Reinhart was one of the 15 featured artists who had an opportunity to design an upcycled canoe, graciously donated by the White River Canoe Company.

“I’m not a painter by nature,” Reinhart says. “I always loved and did art on the side. I used to canoe along the White River, and also other types of outdoor things. I loved the concept, applied and got started. There are also 14 other artists who got to paint them. Their canoes, as well as their canoe locations, are on the White River Alliance’s website.”

“My assignment was to paint a canoe centered around beverage and industry water,” she continues. “Sitting and painting that canoe really gave me a chance to think about the way we use water. I learned about how it’s essential for production and how important it really is to our everyday lives.”

White River AllianceLocal water is not only the primary component used to make everything from coffee to soda, but it is also used for equipment sanitation and is needed for energy usage during manufacturing processes.

Positioned outside of Coca-Cola Consolidated’s Indianapolis bottling facility, the canoe painted by Reinhart serves as a poignant reminder of the many ways in which the community’s waterways are used. The canoe’s visually inviting color blend features a base of warm orange and yellow, which adds depth and contrast to the dark cityscape painted across the canoe.

“I tried to use bright colors as well as the cityscape,” Reinhart says. “I wanted to paint something that people enjoyed looking at.”

Two silhouettes connecting arms are painted in the center. The focal point of the canoe acts as a reminder to residents that it takes unity to make an impact. A proactive attitude toward conservation is a way for residents to lead by example, while educating the community about the ways residents can take action to protect the health and cleanliness of waterways.

“I really want people to learn about what’s going on around us, and there’s a new podcast, ‘The Collective Tap: Conversations About Water,’ that [the White River Alliance] created, which has a lot of information for people to learn about,” Reinhart says. “It’s available on Spotify, Amazon Music, and people can find other information on the White River Alliance website.”

Efforts like the podcast, as well as the White River Art Canoes project, help to inspire Hoosiers to do their part to protect waterways by thinking proactively about how their actions can impact water quality.White River Alliance

“When I think about changes being made on a large scale, it’s sort of paralyzing,” Reinhart says. “Making large-scale changes doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of people – a whole community.”

The truth is, it takes a village. It always has, and it always will.

For more info, go to thewhiteriveralliance.org.

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