Fire Up the Hydrants!


Athens,GA is known for its creative energy and community of people. It is a hub for local artists to display their talents. Public art plays a significant role in the community and now there is a new project joining the streetscape! 

According to the Athens-Clarke County Public Utilities Department, there has already been a lot of talk around the new public art project designed to call attention to the role of the local water system through the painting of fire hydrants around Downtown Athens, GA. The project is titled, "Fire Up the Hydrants."  

The project will include 20 painted fire hydrants in the Downtown Athens area, to be transformed by local artists. The project had over 75 submissions from local artists and the winning entries were selected by a panel comprised of three members of the Athens Area Arts Council, along with representatives of the county’s Water Conservation Office, the fire department and the Athens Downtown Development Authority. "Fire Up the Hydrants" will be on display for the next five years. At the five year mark, Athens-Clarke County firefighters plan to assess the conditions of the painted hydrants and decide whether they will be repainted to their traditional colors.  

hydrant 2I spoke with local artist, Ashley Crain, who was selected to paint the fire hydrant in front of City Hall. Ashley is also a member of the marketing team at The Classic Center. 

How did you get involved with this project?
"First off, I love the city of Athens and wanted to be a part of a project that was part of it. Secondly, I’ve always dabbled in art and wanted a creative way to get my art noticed in Athens and thought this was the perfect outlet." 
Are there any guidelines or restrictions to transforming the fire hydrant?
"Yes! There are certain parts of the hydrant that we are not allowed to paint due to the fact that firefighters need to be able to turn the water on easily and paint would hinder them from turning the hydrants on. We were also not allowed to use dark colors or hues on the hydrants because they need to be easily visible for to the firefighters."
How would you describe your artistic style?
"I don’t really have a specific artistic style that I gravitate towards. I like to work in various styles."
What is your approach to transforming this fire hydrant? 
"I really wanted to go with some sort of Georgia theme and at first I was aiming towards a more Athens design, but decided to go with a design that represented our great state of Georgia overall." 
What do you think the overall effect of this project will be and what can Athens gain from these works of art?
"I think the overall effect will draw the community’s attention to how far Athens has come in water conservation, as well as a new and unique way to view art in this town. If we can get really cool pieces of art out of an uncommon object like a hydrant, think of what else can we do to make the Athens art scene more vibrant and unique!"


The hydrants will not only serve as public art, but will also serve as an educational purpose. There will be a walk to see each of the 20 hydrants. The walk will be about two miles and given the name, "H2O Water Walk," to symbolize how vital water is to the community, health, and environment. If you were to walk from the beginning to the end and back, about four miles, it is the average distance that residents of undeveloped nations must walk to the nearest water source. 

The official unveiling of the "Fire Up the Hydrants" project will be on October 8th from 10 AM to  12 PM on College Avenue. So whether you're in Athens, GA on a UGA football weekend, attending one of the many fall festivals and events, or here for a day trip, don't forget to check out the awesome new public art in the downtown area!