See tomorrow's eco-propaganda today

Keith Palmer's winning entry, from the Flickr page

Those of us who ride SEPTA every weekday are doubtless familiar with the "Protect Philadelphia's Hidden Streams" Art Contest, as its winning entries are hard to miss up there just above head level with the ads, and frequently more visually appealing than the latter .

Since 2000, the program has spotlighted the artwork of Philly schoolkids, trading public-transit superstardom (and art supplies and gift cards).for their drafting skills in delivering a "Don't Pollute" message. It's administered by the Philadelphia Water Department with support from the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

While I'd admit up front, as a rider and something of a doodler myself, that the overall quality of these tends to be variable, that was also true of the slickly produced short bursts of poetry that used to occupy those spots in the late 80s and early 90s, and at least all of these have something important to say. And the program is something of a win-win, in that by getting schoolchildren to think in terms of a public-service ad, the partnership spurs thinking about the underlying problem, so even those who are not represented here are learning and thinking about "pollution that occurs when rainwater flows across the land on its way into nearby waterways, washing pollutants like fertilizers, litter, and leaky motor oil into storm drains," as the partnership explains it in its press release.

You can get a peek at the road ahead in this respect by heading over to the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center (on the Schuylkill behind the Art Museum) for the awards ceremony that takes place later this afternoon, starting at 4:30 p.m. If you can't make it there today you can peruse some of the winning entries online at their Flickr page, which has not only JPEG images but winning video submissions.

In addition to the bus ads, award-winning entries will also be published in a calendar that the Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center will make available to the public for free.