Sixteen local artists painted Lacey Street over the weekend to beautify the city and remind Fairbanksans that storm drains flow directly into the Chena River.

The annual Storm Drain Art Contest took place Saturday, inviting artists to create street art based on the themes of storm water pollution and wildlife.

“The theme of the storm drain art is that you pick some kind of message — clean water, or how to keep animals, fish and wildlife clean, or how it’s all connected to the bigger ecosystem,” said the city’s Environmental Manager Andrew Ackerman, who represents the city in on the Fairbanks Storm Water Advisory Committee. “This event is great because not only does it drive home the message to keep our water clean because it goes into our rivers; it also beautifies our streets. We have a lot of urban asphalt, and people really enjoy walking down the street and seeing public art.”

The event has taken place since 2014, and this year, 20 artists submitted their ideas. The 16 winners received $100 and a chance to share their art with the city.

The winners ranged in ages between 10 and 75. One of the younger artists, Michael Doxey, painted “Teenage Mutant Ninja Bears,” an Alaska variation of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” city communication director Teal Soden wrote in a description of the event.

While in the past years the project would feature a lot of returning artists, 2021 brought new and younger faces, Ackerman said.

“This year, we only had maybe one person who I’d seen before,” he said. “We get a lot of new younger artists. There’s a woman who said she just graduated from University of Alaska Fairbanks with an art degree; there’s some 10- to 12-year-old kids.”

Artists came around 9 a.m. and painted on asphalt throughout the afternoon until 2 or 3 p.m., enjoying food provided by the organizers. Curious passers-by would hear about the project that reminds people to protect wildlife by not polluting the water, Ackerman said.

To make the contest happen each year, the Tanana Valley Watershed Association, Fairbanks Storm Water Advisory Committee, Department of Transportation, the Downtown Association of Fairbanks and other local organizations come together. This year was a little different because the committee brought in private sponsors who donated environmentally-friendly paints and community-based volunteers who helped take care of the artists, Ackerman said.

More support meant more resources — and winners. While usually 10 to 13 artists get a chance to display their art, this year, the number went up to 16.

“The Storm Drain Art Contest was a huge success this year,” Soden wrote.

Ackerman added that the contest attracts national attention, inspiring different organizations across the country to create projects similar to Fairbanks Storm Drain Art Contest.

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at