Lake Nona High School students Carmen N. (front), Fabiana R. (right) and Kylin O. hope their rain barrel, painted with classmate Christopher M. (not pictured), wins an award in OUC’s Water Color Project competition.

“It’s more than a normal school project” is how Carmen N., a 10th grader at Lake Nona High School, describes the work she and three other students have put Into their rain barrel painting entry in OUC’s annual Water Color Project.

That it is, as the rain barrel painting contest challenges teams of middle and high school art students in Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) to enter themed barrels for judging, public viewing and an auction. Carmen N., sophomores Kylin O. and Christopher M., and Fabiana R., a senior, all classmates in Sabrina Massoni’s fifth period Painting 2 course, hope their barrel claims an award and goes for top dollar in the 2020 contest. Lake Nona High took home the Most Creative Award for its 2019 entry, a circular mural of Weeki Wachi Springs mermaids.

“I have impressed on them that we are a competitive school and we want to keep our winning streak going,” said Massoni in a half-joking, half-serious sort of way. “But I’m proud of their work no matter what.”

Entered in the Orlando/Orange Theme category, her students’ barrel depicts 9- by 12-inch vintage “postcards” of historic images, local landmarks and natural environments, along with Disney characters. Each student has a specific task – Carmen handles architecture, Kylin tackles portraits, Fabiana adds wildlife and nature, and Christopher re-creates animated figures, including a parachuting Donald Duck. Painted on a sky blue background with wispy clouds, the individual works form a collage of nostalgic and present-day iconic images of Central Florida.

“We wanted to do something that we all could show our individual styles,” said Carmen.

Fabiana paints nature scenes on a 9- by 12-inch ‘postcard.’

It’s expected that 153 Orange County middle and high schools will compete in the 2020 rain barrel painting project. Themes include Water Conservation, Florida, Environmental/Eco-Friendly and Orlando/Orange. Entries are judged for awards by employees of OUC, OCPS and CityArts, and they’re displayed at CityArts along with 13 water conservation-themed drawings by local elementary school students. The drawings will adorn the cover and 12 months of the 2020 OUC Water Conservation Calendar.

All rain barrels are later auctioned off to OUC and OCPS employees, with the proceeds going to winning schools’ art programs. The 2019 auction raised $1,475 for OCPS Visual Art Department.

Introduced in 2006, the Water Color Project is designed to educate and inform participants about the importance of water conservation. Each spring OUC hosts a special reception at the Orlando Repertory Theatre to honor winners and participants. The 13 elementary school students whose drawings are picked for the calendar receive plaques and gift cards. Winning middle and high school teams in the rain barrel competition receive plaques and gift cards. Art teachers of winning students also receive gift cards. Nearly 1,200 Orange County students have participated in the rain barrel program since it began.

Take a look behind the scenes in the video below.