LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- You may have seen several of them as on storm drains throughout the city – murals painted by a local artist.

On Monday, the top three winners for the 2019 Drain Smart Program were announced with the first-place winner receiving a $500 cash prize.

1st- Marcus Vasquez from Little Rock
2nd- Teddi Flowers from Bryant
3rd- April Smith from North Little Rock

Uta Meyer, a center manager with Audubon Arkansas and one of the coordinators with the program, says this year had many strong artists.

“Marcus Vazquez is our first place winner this year,” says Meyer. “He’s an artist with a BFA from UALR here in Little Rock and he painted ‘Basking In The Sun.’ It’s a red-ear slider mural and turtles are one of his favorites things to view outside.”

A total of 18 different local artists competed this year.

“Drain Smart” is an engaging public-education and environmental awareness program that uses art to communicate the function and importance of local storm drains.

Meyer says it allows the artist the opportunity to be creative and help raise awareness for this purpose.

First place winner Marcus Vasquez, 23, has been painting since he was 8-years-old. He says he hopes his artwork inspires people to care more about the water, the environment, and overall Arkansas.

“I think more people should care,” says Vasquez. “Disrupting the ecosystem for something as small as a turtle could turn around and affect us.”

Vasquez says he chose the red-eared slider turtle because it was one of his favorite he would see often while going on walks growing up.

“The red-eared slider plays an important role in nature’s system of checks and balances in our lakes and streams,” Vasquez explains. “They are an important role in our ecosystem and a native to Arkansas.”

Red-eared sliders are now protected by state law and people are restricted from selling them. There orange or reddish stripe on each side of the head is a distinct trait that no other Arkansas turtle has to make them both rare and unique.

As for the $500 prize…

“I hope to use it for educational purposes,” says Vazquez.