Kenosha Water Utility's Mosaics Aren't Your Average Murals

Mosaic artworks created by a youth group grace the walls at water and wastewater treatment plants in a Wisconsin city on Lake Michigan.
Kenosha Water Utility's Mosaics Aren't Your Average Murals
Detail of the water cycle as depicted by one of the 3-panel ceramic murals mounted on the wall of Kenosha’s water production plant.

Nearly 2.5 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline separates the Kenosha water and wastewater treatment plants, but the facilities share a theme: city parks, public art and murals.

“The murals are not your ordinary painted mural on the wall,” says Ed St. Peter, general manager of Kenosha Water Utility. “They are made of 1- and 2-inch square ceramic tiles and artistically arranged as a mosaic to depict our water and wastewater treatment processes.”

One of the murals is a 10-foot-high by 14-foot-wide beauty that graces a wall of the pump house at the 28 mgd wastewater treatment plant. Highly visible to the public from the parking lot of the Southport Park next door, the three-panel mosaic depicts the wastewater collections piping system, biological treatment and final clarification.  

At the O. Fred Nelson water production facility, on a peninsula named Simmons Island, three murals of similar character grace the wall of a sedimentation tank and show the water cycle and the progress of water through the 40 mgd facility.

Youth group projects

The murals were the creation of a city-sponsored group, Youth Employment in the Arts. Each summer, youth members chose a building or structure in the city on which to produce a work of art to reflect what goes on inside.

The group worked on the treatment plants in two successive years. Once a project and theme were defined, the members prepared a concept and final layout drawings. They assembled sections of the murals in manageable sizes and transported them to the plant sites for installation by a contractor. “It took all summer for the students to complete each project,” says St. Peter.

Complementing the mural at the water plant are nearly a dozen pieces of public art across a 100-foot-wide boat harbor that the facility fronts. Created by various artists and funded by private donations, the sculptures are part of Celebration Place at Harbor Park, an epicenter of community events and festivals.

“We just happen to have an ideal location that makes our facility almost part of that park,” says Roger Field, director of water production. “In fact, we already are part of the Simmons Island Park, which is being expanded and improved.”

Multiple amenities

Simmons Island Park, one of the city’s most visited parks, offers features that include walking and biking trails, a swimming beach, volleyball courts, playgrounds, observation decks and overlook platforms. A new 8-foot-wide composite wooden boardwalk passes the water plant.

The parking lot of a beach house built in 1934 and designated as a historic building on the national register abuts the plant’s north side. Sand dunes created as part of the city park master plan serve as a buffer against Lake Michigan, the plant’s water source. A lighthouse sits at the end of the harbor channel that flows in front of the plant and allows pleasure boats access to a pier and mooring slips.

“We are highly visible to the public, and we appreciate having the mural and sculptures to help with our overall landscape and appearance,” says Field.

The wastewater treatment plant has some of the same good-neighbor features as the water plant. Even though the Southport Park is smaller and only part of its parking lot adjoins the plant, it also has a beach and a historic beach house nearby. Two playgrounds, hiking and biking trails and the sand dunes all attract visitors.

“We’re quite pleased with the impact our mural has on users of the park,” says Katie Karow, director of wastewater treatment. “The architecture of our building is very pretty, and the mural adds a lot to the whole overview.”


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