Some Treatment Plant Murals Are Flat. Here's One That Is Round.

More than 800 spray cans in the hands of an artist helped create a mural with a message on a water tank in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Some Treatment Plant Murals Are Flat. Here's One That Is Round.

An aerial view of the completed mural. Artist David Louf stands on top of the 1-million-gallon storage tank.

“Water Is Life” is the message the Greensboro (North Carolina) Water Resources Department wanted to convey to citizens and visitors. So the city did it in a big way, with a bold mural on the domed roof of a 1-million-gallon ground-level water storage tank at the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant.

Featuring a bright pallet of shades of blue, the 124-foot-diameter abstract mural has sharp angles, hexagonal forms, and circular waves appearing as water droplets that suggest water in its natural state. The dome is highly visible to motorists and passersby on a heavily used greenway next to the 24 mgd water treatment plant.  

“Art speaks in a language that can be more accessible and more inspirational than words alone,” says Steve Drew, water resources director. “We wanted to instill a sense of awe and curiosity. We want the community to ask questions and to realize that the way they use water affects the future for everyone who lives, works or visits Greensboro. Our department has taken a bold step in community outreach, and in this case, bold action is bold art.”

Plenty of paint

Artist David Louf of the Netherlands painted the fine-art portion of the mural using acrylic-based paint from nearly 864 spray cans. Larger sections of the graphic design were rolled with 75 gallons of Sherwin-Williams exterior paint. A protective coating of PPG Protective & Marine Coatings PERMA-CRETE finished the job. Phillip Marsh, Greensboro native and artist, assisted with the project; he describes the mural as an “anamorphic abstract.”

Louf’s artistic work was aided by drones. Aerial photographs of his progress were used to help keep the correct perspective of the images he was creating on the convex surface. Marsh also served on the nine-member selection committee that coordinated the call for artists, reviewed the credentials and ideas of 45 respondents, and chose “Mr. June,” as Louf is known in the art world.

Louf’s nickname came from the random letters “J-U-N-E” that he wrote on street-art graffiti he created as a kid in Rotterdam, Netherlands: He didn’t know it was the English word for a month.

Local inspiration

Drew says the main inspiration for the mural was Faun Finley, chair of Greensboro’s Community Sustainability Council. Finley was touring the water plant to discuss options for public art at the site and said, “The dome-shaped storage tank is a perfect blank canvas for a mural. It’s calling out to be painted.”

The concrete storage tank was completed in 2017 and primed with a tan-colored durable paint. Before Finley’s observation, plans were to paint the city’s green logo on the surface. The cost avoided for that project helped offset the nearly $20,000 cost of the mural.

Mike Borchers, assistant director, coordinated the mural project with the plant staff. “We are very pleased with the results,” he says. “We’re excited to continue to convey the message that ‘Water is Life.’”

Art with a message

The mural unveiling ceremony included an interactive art event that attracted more than 120 children. Each used water-based spray cans to create graffiti on sheets of plywood set up like easels or on large sheets of clear plastic stretched between trees. As a memento, everyone received a spray can Louf used to create the mural. The cans were decorated with stickers imprinted with an image of the mural. 

Drew says the mural helps the city and the Water Resources Department educate customers about the importance of water: “It’s my job to effectively manage water resources, but it’s my duty to educate the public about water safety and water stewardship. That’s a big reason we painted a mural on the tank.”


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