“To do environmental work in conjunction with art is so satisfying… we’ve got to meet incredible people from different fields. It’s wonderful. Art and science should get together more.”

Across America’s Rust Belt, abandoned mines continue to leak toxins into rivers and streams. We might not associate art and beauty with materials that pollute our environment, but an unexpected duo thought differently.

Ohio University art professor John Sabraw and civil engineer Guy Riefler joined forces and devised a method for transforming toxic river sludge into stunning, critically acclaimed works of art. After extracting and neutralizing the industrial waste from the Ohio rivers, the resulting pigments are made into vibrant, vivid paints.

In an inspiring example of what is possible when we combine science and creativity, Sabraw and Riefler prove that beauty can be found even in the most unexpected things, like in the removal of pollution.

Photography by Marvin Shaouni