STEP students flood Freshwater with winning designs

Ashley Brunko, Abigail Pierce and Noah Harned – all students in Anoka-Hennepin’s STEP program – have been named winners in the Freshwater Society’s Work for Art and Water Design Contest.

by Ashley Brunko
by Ashley Brunko

The students’ artistic work, each created to describe the issues of urban runoff, impressed judges, who evaluated artwork submitted by more than 50 high school students from across the state for the contest.

In the end, Brunko of Andover, Pierce of Anoka and Harned of Coon Rapids were named winners of the Freshwater Society contest and received cash awards.

The three winners are all students in Amber Moore’s art technology class at the STEP school. Their winning designs will be used as messaging tools on billboards, yard signs and in media during Freshwater Society’s Work for Water campaign.


Artists’ inspiration

Brunko described the inspiration for her award-winning artwork, emphasizing her belief that “we are the ones that have created this problem and we are the onesß that can fix it.”

by Noah Harned
by Noah Harned

“Urban runoff is a big problem, especially in a state where we have so many bodies of water that are used for many recreational activities,” she said. “The dirty droplet of water (in her artwork) is falling into the once clean waters of Minnesota. If this continues no one will want to or be able to enjoy the waters for recreation.”

Pierce, a photographer who finds inspiration in nature, talked about the value of water.

“Water provides life for all living things and thus should be taken care of,” she said. “I came up with this concept on the idea of simple beauty. Things we tend to overlook in our daily lives, that if they were changed, would alter our lives as we know them. Do the world a favor and keep our mirrors clean not green: stop urban runoff by cleaning up your grass clippings.”

by Abigail Pierce
by Abigail Pierce

To plan his design, Harned said he thought about the impact of dirty water on children and their parents.

“The child (in Harned’s artwork) is sad that he can’t play in the water because it has been polluted with yard waste that has made it dirty,” he said.

“This design could appeal to parents because the more urban runoff the less their children can enjoy the lakes closest to them. And when parents look at this design they will think about how it can affect their child.”


Contest’s purpose

Senior high school students from throughout the state were invited to submit art and graphic designs that motivate people to take action to stop urban runoff.

“By properly disposing waste and keeping leaves and debris out of streets, people can have significant impacts on water quality,” according to the Freshwater Society website.

The 2012 contest is the eighth annual Freshwater Society Working for Art and Design Contest in the state of Minnesota. The society collaborates with Synergy & Leadership Exchange and the Minnesota Service Cooperatives to bring the contest to all public, private and home-schooled senior high school students.


Freshwater’s Work for Water campaign

Freshwater Society’s Work for Water campaign is a multi-year effort to educate and influence Minnesota citizens’ knowledge, attitude and behaviors around storm water and non-point source pollution.

The campaign expands the community clean-ups for water quality initiatives that the Freshwater Society has been organizing with the Friends of the Minnesota Valley throughout the state.

Citizens are urged to “grab a rake to save a lake,” according to the Freshwater Society’s website. “Our work for water micro-challenges will motivate neighbors statewide to compete for cash awards for the best implemented ideas on non-point pollution prevention behavior every season.”

The Minnesota Clean Water Challenge will engage communities in an Internet competition to collect the most points for their individual actions to protect clean water.

For more information about the Freshwater Society and the Clean Water Challenge, visit

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]