Fire hydrants are a prime example of functionality over aesthetics. They’ll get you water in an emergency, but no one’s ever insisted they have to look good doing it.
Still, the folks at East End Arts believe it wouldn’t hurt to try.
The Riverhead nonprofit is teaming up with the town for an art contest called “All Fired Up on Main.” Chosen artists will be able to re-design the surfaces of 10 specific fire hydrants along Main Street downtown to make them a little more aesthetically pleasing.
“The town just got new sidewalks, and just like when people put new carpeting in their house, they realize now the furniture looks bad,” said East End Arts’ executive director Pat Snyder. “So after the sidewalks were redone we realized the fire hydrants didn’t look so good.
“[The town] came to us and wondered what could be done, so we came up with the contest and everyone loved the idea.”
Artists of all ages are welcome to submit their own design for a hydrant. The application, which can be downloaded on the organization’s website, features an outline of the front and back of a hydrant that the artist can decorate and design at their will.
All are all located between Maple Avenue and Griffing avenues.
There is no set “theme,” but inappropriate words, ads and political messages are not allowed. Designers also cannot glue or attach any objects, and the designs cannot be so elaborate that they significantly reduce the hydrant’s visibility, organizers said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the designs would conform with the existing color-coding used by local firefighters, and Ms. Snyder said she was not made aware of any requirements for specific colors based on emergency responder needs.
“There are many cities across the countries that have done this,” she said.
Ms. Snyder later said town water district officials told her there are no laws requiring hydrants be a certain color, though artists won’t be able to cover more than 20 percent of the structures black, as that would make them difficult to see.
The town-owned hydrants are typically silver and orange.
Artists must submit the drawing of their design by Sept. 8 to East End Arts, 133 East Main St., Riverhead, NY 11901. They will be notified of their acceptance by Sept. 15. For those accepted, all paint and supplies will be provided and they will receive a $100 stipend after the project is finished. The painting of the hydrant must be completely finished by Oct. 10 in time for the awards ceremony at Riverhead Country Fair on Oct. 12.