UpStream Art 2021 FAQ & Rules

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Every summer since 2016, the City of Springfield’s Stormwater Team has commissioned artists to paint murals at select City storm drains. This project, called UpStream Art, supports artists and beautifies the City while increasing awareness of the connection between City streets and local waterways. Our goal is to inspire community members to change their everyday behaviors in order to prevent pollutants from entering neighborhood storm drains.

Our stormwater system is an important part of Springfield’s infrastructure that prevents flooding. It’s largely out of sight and out of mind because it’s mostly underground, yet it links our yards to our rivers. When it rains the water washes over the City, collecting contaminants such as yard chemicals, vehicle fluids, animal waste, soaps from car washing, litter, yard debris, and more. These flow into storm drains and, unfiltered, out to the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers, where they can harm the waterways we all rely on and enjoy.

Springfield is located between two rivers and our earliest industries are founded on water. We need water to survive and it factors into local activities we can enjoy. UpStream Art provides opportunities to consider the water that surrounds us, the unseen water infrastructure that sustains us, and the good choices we’re already making that preserve Springfield’s health and our future.

The City is committed to hosting UpStream Art 2021, though we may have to cancel or alter the project due to state or local regulations. Staff will practice physical distancing and other recommended practices. Community members will not be invited to watch this year’s painting installation, as had been done in previous years. The City will stay in contact with all artists, to hear concerns and communicate any changes.

  1. Review the “Frequently Asked Questions” you’re currently reading. This can also be downloaded as a PDF.
  2. Create an original sketch or graphic of your design idea. Ensure you can finish painting it during the assigned times (spanning 2 days at 8 hours each day), using water-soluble traffic paints provided by the City. The artwork must include the following information somewhere in the design:

• City of Springfield

  1. Complete the UpStream Art Artist Application, located on this website. It will request a short statement of how your design reflects this year’s theme, “Keep It Clean: Drains to Stream.”
  2. Email your (a) completed application and (b) original art design, along with any optional materials, by midnight on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Details on how to address the email, and more, are on page 2 of the Artist Application under “Submitting your entry.”

Please review the judge’s criteria (the 12th FAQ, below) to know what they will look for. For anyone new to UpStream Art, potential sources for inspiration are listed below, yet this list is not exhaustive. Get creative!

  • Consider this year’s theme, “Keep it Clean, Drains to Stream.” This is similar to the slogan “Drains to river,” located at many storm drains throughout the City.
  • Inspire neighbors to adopt habits that keep pollution out of the area and, therefore, out of the stormwater system. Think in terms of actions and outcomes!
  • Increase awareness of water systems. These could be the natural water cycle or the City stormwater system. The storm drains on S. 32nd Street empty directly into nearby Jasper Slough, then flow through the Millrace and out to the Willamette River.
  • Relate to students who will be walking by on their way to Agnes Stewart Middle School, or to visitors going to Jasper Creek for a walk – get creative!
  • Invoke “water” since that is what a drain is for.
  • Relate ideas of neighborhood, neighbors, community, systems (natural systems or man-made infrastructure systems), diversity, Springfield history, and natural history.
  • View the “Informational Materials” in the “Stormwater Information” section of this website:

Anyone! The UpStream Art “Call for Artists” is open to all artists with a talent for painting and an interest in helping protect Springfield’s water quality.

No, you do not have to be a Springfield resident. Anyone living in Oregon can apply.

Yes, all artists are invited to apply even if they have participated in UpStream Art before. To ensure a variety of styles, artists are limited to winning 2 years in a row and, after taking the third year off, may apply again on their fourth year. Artists who have won before, but not for 2-years-in-a-row, can also apply.

Yes, artists can re-submit a design that was not selected for UpStream Art in a previous year. Keep in mind that judges select work that communicates this year’s theme, “Keep It Clean: Drains to Stream.”

Because only emailed submissions will be accepted for UpStream Art 2021, there will be no physical artwork accepted nor returned. If your artwork is not selected, you will retain all rights to your design. If you are selected, you will be asked to sign a contract granting the City the rights to your work.

Completed UpStream Art Artist Applications, including one original sketch or graphic of your design, must be received by midnight, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Late submissions will not be considered. If you do not receive an emailed confirmation that your submission was received within 72 hours of submittal, it is your responsibility to call 541.726.3626 to check on the status of your application.

Winning designs will be selected by a panel of judges comprised of educators and representatives from the art community, Springfield business leaders, and City staff.

  1. Interpretation and clarity of theme: “Keep It Clean: Drains to Stream.”
  2. Creativity and originality to this year’s message of “Keep It Clean: Drains to Stream.”
  3. Quality of artistic composition
  4. Overall impression of art
  5. Feasibility of the artist completing the work within the given timeframe (2 days and 8 hours per day)

All winning artists will be required to participate in a mandatory orientation that will include a short training about stormwater, personal safety while working near traffic, storm drain safety, and information about the painting days. It is currently scheduled for Wednesday, August 11, 2021.

Artists who do not attend will have breached their contract, their winning status will be revoked, and the next runner-up will be selected to replace them.

If selected to participate in the UpStream Art project, artists must sign a contract, complete the mural within the allotted time, use specialized sidewalk paints provided by the City, paint the City-approved design submitted, and release ownership of the storm drain mural artwork to the City of Springfield. These artists will receive $1000 in compensation. The designs that become selected also become property of the City of Springfield, while designs not selected remain the property of the artist.

The general size of a storm drain section is 4-feet by 6-feet but this will fluctuate with each drain. It is up to the artist’s discretion whether they fill the entire area, or part of it. The metal grates cannot be painted. The art cannot enter the street (cannot be on the asphalt) and must stay within the prepared area.

Artists will be painting on pavement surrounding storm drains near Agnes Stewart Middle School on S 32nd St, Springfield. Shown (right) are the five drains to be painted this year.

The City will pressure wash and prepare the sites with a clear concrete sealer before painting. Slab sizes vary slightly. Manhole covers are part of the painting area – possibly consider incorporating that circle. Painting in front of the drain, on the concrete in the gutter, is permitted as long as it is not on the street asphalt, but paint in the gutter will wear off faster than the rest. This is due to routine street sweeping and the area not being sealed prior to installation. Please contain the painting within the main concrete slab and do not extend beyond the edges of the drain.

If a design idea has special requirements, please contact us and we will consider it!

After artists receive notice their design was selected, they will be assigned to a painting location. Since each drain is slightly different, the artist may choose to modify their design to suit the location. Only MINOR changes will be allowed and must be submitted to the City for approval by 5 p.m. on Friday, August 13, 2021.

Artists must use paints provided by the City of Springfield, which are specialized for use on sidewalks. The brand is Ennis-Flint traffic paint and it is water soluble. Staff will provide primary colors (red, black, yellow, blue, and white) and artists can mix them. For examples, peruse photos of previous murals at

These tips may help with planning your design and your painting process:

  • Paints dry in approx. 20 minutes so keep them damp! City staff will provide a spray bottle to keep the paint from drying – it works like a charm!
  • Keep lids on all containers to prevent drying.
  • Mix all the colors you need prior to starting your mural to help keep paints fresh.
  • Go easy on the red – it is VERY intense!

The City will have protective measures and materials in place to prevent any accidentally spilled materials from entering waterways. Artists will learn more about storm drain protection at the UpStream Art Artist Orientation.

Nothing! City staff will power wash each painting site before the project begins. We will also apply a clear-coat sealer before and after the painting is complete.

Artists must be present to paint their designs at the designated Springfield location between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during a two-day period: Thursday, September 2 and Friday, September 3. Artists are permitted to finish early. Complete the mural by 4 p.m. on the 3rd.

Mural artwork is anticipated to last anywhere from 3-5 years and the City occasionally may clear coat the work to help it last longer. The City reserves the right to remove storm drain artwork at any time.

Artist’s schedule

UpStream Art Artist Application due: Midnight on Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Artists notified of selection: Week of June 28, 2021
Artist Contract finalized and returned to the City: 5pm on Wednesday, July 14, 2021
UpStream Art mandatory Artist Orientation: 6pm, Wednesday August 11, 2021, held online
Final design modifications due
(based on assigned mural location):
5pm on Friday, August 13, 2021
Mural painting: 8am to 4pm, Thursday, September 2

8am to 4pm, Friday, September 3

All art must be completed: 4pm, Friday, September 3 (ok to finish sooner)

Additional questions?

You may contact us at and please put “UpStream Art” in the subject line.

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