Clermont County participating in regional effort that fosters local students and environment

Bethel-Tate art teacher Meg Bierkan, third from left, and several of her students pose with the rain barrels they created in class.
Prepare to be amazed as the realms of art and environment collide into spectacular rain barrels! Since early January, artists of all ages from across the Tri-State area have participated in a project to promote water conservation and environmental protection. Forty-two artist worked their magic to turn dull rain barrels into true works of art. The painted rain barrels will be sold during a silent auction event in the Cincinnati Zoo’s Go Green Garden at 6:30 p.m. April 18. Zoo admission is free at this time for the Annual Tunes and Blooms concert in conjunction with a Party for the Planet Earth Day Celebration!

“We’re pleased to be a regional partner in the ‘Saving Rain for a Sunny Day’ project and are excited to be a part of the event which takes place in the Duke Energy Go Green Garden Exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo,” President of the Board of Clermont County Commissioners Ed Humphrey said. “Both Duke Energy and the Cincinnati Zoo donated resources and volunteers during Clermont County tornado recovery efforts last year.”

The commissioners favor the program because it is designed to encourage and teach green practices which save residents money and help keep regional communities safe and clean. Commissioner Humphrey also added, “We are proud of our local Bethel-Tate students for their dedication and talent; we hope our Clermont County communities will rally around them to support their hard work!”

The ‘Saving Rain for a Sunny Day’ project is facilitated by Save Local Waters, an alliance dedicated to raising awareness and increasing public involvement around environmental issues in the Ohio River Valley. Clermont County is a proud participant of this alliance and supports their efforts to involve local schools and community members with improving water quality and quantity concerns.

“There are many storm water-related challenges in Clermont County, including localized flooding problems, stream bank erosion and pollutants being washed in to local streams with storm water runoff,” said John McManus, administrator for the Clermont Soil and Water Conservation District. “Any practice that stores storm water, slows it down, or soaks it into the ground, will help to alleviate these problems. McManus added, “Rain barrels help do all three. Plus, they allow home owners to store water for use when the weather turns dry, helping them to save money on their water bill!”

By leveraging the collaboration’s joint resources, the members are capable of utilizing mass media to reach regional audiences with a consistent message in the most economical and efficient manner possible.

The Cincinnati Zoo is another active partner in the Save Local Waters rain barrel project.

“As the Greenest Zoo in America, we are always looking for ways to inspire the community to take small actions that can impact the wild places and faces we are committed to protect,” said the Zoo’s Sustainability Coordinator Sophia Cifuentes. “These rain barrels are a great example of how we can do just that. Not only are they an easy and beautiful way to harness rainwater, but many of the artists who painted the barrels engaged in conversations about ecology and environmental stewardship.”

Bethel-Tate High School art teacher and eco-enthusiast Meggie Bierkan explained she jumped out of her seat when the rain barrel art project was announced at the Ohio Art Education Association Conference last year.

“What an amazing opportunity for students to experience 3D design artwork while generating awareness to help keep our communities safe and clean!” Bierkan said.

The students faced a variety of challenges completing the task. They had to learn the skills necessary to transfer their two-dimensional sketches into 3-dimensional artwork and figure a way to incorporate the barrel’s lid.

Bierkan also charged her students with the task of incorporating the mission of Save Local Waters into their design. Originally, her students thought it would be simple, but they quickly discovered not only did they have to develop new skills and learn to make the most of their limited resources, but they also had to go outside their comfort zone of being an individual artist. Each student interested in participating was partnered with a student they’ve never worked with before.

They learned to be vulnerable with their ideas, compromise for the sake of completing the task, how to communicate clearly in order to help the other understand their artistic interpretation and why it’s important to protect the environment – all life lessons they each agree will stay with them forever.

“I’ve been accepted into a graphic design program at an art institute in New York and I intend to use the skills I’ve learned from this project! For my portfolio, I’m going to create and publish a magazine of the images we designed here,” Austin Moore, a senior at Bethel-Tate High School said.

Bierkan is calling on Clermont County leaders and community members to attend the rain barrel event, she believes it is an easy and fun way to become more involved with local issues and encourage youth.

“It’s about supporting the students, praising them for their dedication to complete the challenge and congratulating them for their hard work to make our world a better place. I truly hope people will come out and show their support for Bethel-Tate!” Bierkan exclaimed.

The silent auction, exhibiting the barrels painted by Bethel-Tate students and other area artists, will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, 2013. Questions regarding the event should be directed to, Ken Perica at (513) 659-5902 or