Burlington City Arts

OCTOBER 14, 2015

Burlington City Arts Gifts Stormwater Sculpture To ECHO Center


Burlington, VT: Vermont artist John Brickels installed his latest clay work, Stormwater Street, at ECHO, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain last week.  The sculpture was a gift from Burlington City Arts (BCA), created through the planBTV South End project as a way to raise awareness about the stormwater system. 

The Stormwater Street is an active water network that illustrates the vulnerabilities and opportunities for storm water management that lay beneath our feet. Several carved, fired clay components and six pumps moving water through various clay cavities depict an imaginary streetscape that includes a sewer and storm water system, a water treatment plant, and an urban house complete with a rain garden and permeable driveway.  One side of the street shows the challenge of treating storm water with an aging infrastructure made up of crumbling manholes and worn, leaky sewer and storm water pipes that eventually lead to run-off entering the lake. The other “good” side of the street demonstrates what can be done to mitigate destructive storm water run-off.  Urban gardens and permeable driveways utilizing layered components such as geo membrane fabric, bio retention soil, gravel, perforated drainpipe and porous unit paving block help alleviate the destructive consequences of storm water run-off.

The South End is home to several outfalls and watershed restoration projects. The draft South End Plan outlines several traditional stormwater management measures, but also recognizes that “A more climate-resilient Burlington will need to find creative ways to address issues like stormwater runoff and water quality.”  “Creative approaches are seeded by awareness and education,” said BCA Executive Director, Doreen Kraft.  “Even after the planning is over, ECHO’s robust education program will use this artwork to continually engage and inform the public about storm water issues. Art has the power to make a complex systems digestible, or in the case of a storm water system—simply visible. That can make a difference in public understanding of the system over time. ” 

ECHO Executive Director, Phelan Fretz was delighted with the new piece. “Science and art combine in this piece to produce an important 'clean-up Lake Champlain' message. The science of stormwater tells us we must change how we manage the water falling on our city and rural streets for a healthier Lake Champlain. To communicate this information and importance, we look to the arts community. John Brickels has created a working model of our city's streets—above and below. Find out what you can do to solve stormwater problems—only at ECHO."

The sculpture’s creation was funded through the planBTV South End project, a City of Burlington outreach and planning project led by Planning and Zoning and Burlington City Arts. PlanBTV South End’s purpose was to engage a diverse cross-section of citizens in the future of the South End, and to incorporate the arts as an engagement tool. PlanBTV South End was supported in part by an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  For more information on PlanBTV South End, visit   

John Brickels has been creating stoneware clay sculptures for over 30 years. His ceramic art ranges from architecturally themed sculptures to machines, life-size robots and vintage pedal car bodies retrofitted with ceramic mechanicals. His work is created from slab and extruded stoneware clay. 

He has exhibited with the Smithsonian Institute and has garnered national attention with features in Ceramic Monthly Magazine and Hemming’s Classic Car Magazine. More of his work can be seen at  

This project is an important part of Burlington City Arts, celebrating over 30 years nurturing a dynamic environment that makes quality arts experiences accessible to a broad audience. For more information about gallery exhibitions, special events, classes and workshops, please call 802.865.7166 or visit BURLINGTONCITYARTS.ORG.