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Characterizing Huntington

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CHIP: Local artistNicole Funk chips away at five layers of paint to create a fresh canvas for this year’s hydrant painting theme, comic characters.
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CHIP: Local artistNicole Funk chips away at five layers of paint to create a fresh canvas for this year’s hydrant painting theme, comic characters.
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HYDRANTS: Hydrants painted in past campaigns, pictured here, will be covered in characters from popular culture and local comic artists’ comic strips.
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HYDRANTS: Hydrants painted in past campaigns, pictured here, will be covered in characters from popular culture and local comic artists’ comic strips.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

The LaFountaine Arts Council is bringing local art to Huntington – one fire hydrant at a time.

The council is continuing the tradition of painting fire hydrants along Jefferson street this summer, featuring comic characters this year.

LaFountaine Arts Council director Deb Dyer said local artists are free to use their artistic expression on their hydrant. Some are even drawing inspiration from their own original comic characters.

Dyer explained that painting the hydrants promotes and brings awareness of public art in a way that is inclusive of all ages types of people – not just artists.

“I think artistic expression anywhere is important because it provokes emotions, happiness and it conveys different messages than what the art represents – it shows you that you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate art,” she said.

Mayor Brooks Fetters also enjoys seeing the local artists’ creativity come alive in such unique way.

“It’s giving people the opportunity to bring creativity and fun to our downtown and near downtown neighborhoods with painting our fire hydrants in ways that tell stories and create interest,” he said. “And you’re taking something that’s normally just a standard ‘blah’ looking thing that sits on a street corner and making something that fun out of it.”

Dyer also said this idea takes something that is a necessity to the community and makes it into something noticeable and fun. She said the arts council had done research on what various communities have done to bring public art to their downtown. They saw a lot of painted crosswalks, sculptures and benches, so they decided to bring flair to fire hydrants.

The arts council has decorated the hydrants for years, though Dyer said they don’t do it as frequently as they used to. Even still, Dyer said there are some veterans in the hydrant painting who have done it for several themes. Some families do it together and even some neighbors are teaming up.

“Everybody does an awesome job creating whatever the theme is on the hydrants,” Dyer said.

Not only does this idea promote public art within the community, but Dyer said it also helps empower the local artists involved.

“I think it empowers them to continue in their craft and to continue in what they love to do. They have a passion for creating, and I think that it’s an outlet for it,” she said. “I think there are so many different kinds of outlets, and public art is a great outlet for an artist who is passionate about sharing their talents.”

Nicole Funk is one participant who will be painting a hydrant for the first time this year and will be drawing inspiration from her woodburning business for her design. She explained that she is excited to help put forth effort to beautify the community of Huntington.

“I think it’s a really fun project and it’s neat that we can come together as a community and do something like this,” she said. “I’m from a big city initially, and we don’t do things like this there. So I think this is really neat.”

Funk started chipping away old layers of paint on her hydrant on Thursday, a process that had already taken her more than four hours, but she was dedicated to starting her hydrant with a clean canvas. After she chips the paint away, she plans to prime the hydrant and get to work on painting her design.

Opening day will be September 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. Dyer said people can come and pick up a hydrant map, visit all of the hydrants and talk to the artists to hear about their design and why they decided to get involved.

They don’t put the names of the comic characters on the actual hydrants, in hopes to get visitors to guess what they are, adding to the fun.