On August 29, 2015, Sean Connaughty collected his 69th bag of trash from Lake Hiawatha in Minneapolis. That makes 1,750 pounds of trash he's picked out of Lake Hiawatha since May!
And that's only the trash — pesticides and other pollutants also end up in the lake.
Where does it all come from?
Each time it rains, trash is carried downstream into the Lake Hiawatha from Minnehaha Creek and stormwater drains.
Earlier this summer, Sean marked a green ball and dropped it into the storm drain near his house. Two weeks later, he found that ball floating in a mass of trash and other debris near the storm culvert at the north end of lake. Sean documented his find in his video below. To promote awareness about water quality, Connaughty began stenciling storm drains. So far, he's stenciled 175 drains.
Trash on exhibit
In addition, Sean is exhibiting some of the trash he's picked up to showcase the problem of Lake Hiawatha and trash. Sean has been working with colleagues to clean, sort, and examine six of 69 bags he's collected (10% of the trash). This 10% sample reveals useful and fascinating data about our urban 21st century culture and our patterns of consumption. The exhibit includes hundreds of curious, one of a kind objects that were removed from the lake this summer.
The exhibition will also examine the history of the lake and will highlight the wildlife that makes its home there. A vital ecosystem has managed to survive despite the adverse conditions, and it is artist's hope that this exhibition can mark the end of an era of neglect for the lake.
The exhibition will coincide with an important upcoming meeting addressing the future of Lake Hiawatha, and will provide citizens an opportunity to take action. Those in attendance can sign a letter urging the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District to change the storm water sewer infrastructure that currently drains unfiltered into the lake.
Sean's collaborators include:
- Craig Johnson, sustainability designer
- Annette Walby, artist and landscape architect
- Carol Nordstrom, archaeology
- Amy Dritz, designer, sustainability and action
Sean's work was recently profiled in several articles: