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Article updated: 12/5/2013 5:58 PM

Geneva 'Art on Fire' contest could repeat next year

Tia Holinger took first place with her “Courthouse Owls” in the “Art on Fire” fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer. Holinger’s artwork is on the hydrant at Third and Fulton streets.

Tia Holinger took first place with her "Courthouse Owls" in the "Art on Fire" fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer. Holinger's artwork is on the hydrant at Third and Fulton streets.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 Tia Holinger took first place with her “Courthouse Owls” in the “Art on Fire” fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva. The 41 hydrants were judged by the city’s Public Arts Advisory Committee and the Cultural Arts Commission.

Tia Holinger took first place with her "Courthouse Owls" in the "Art on Fire" fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva. The 41 hydrants were judged by the city's Public Arts Advisory Committee and the Cultural Arts Commission.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 Tia Holinger took first place with her “Courthouse Owls” in the “Art on Fire” fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer. Her artwork is at Third and Fulton streets.

Tia Holinger took first place with her "Courthouse Owls" in the "Art on Fire" fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer. Her artwork is at Third and Fulton streets.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 Tia Holinger took first place with her “Courthouse Owls” in the “Art on Fire” fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer.

Tia Holinger took first place with her "Courthouse Owls" in the "Art on Fire" fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 Lorraine Ochsner’s “Santa” hydrant at the corner of Third and Campbell streets took third place in the “Art on Fire” fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer.

Lorraine Ochsner's "Santa" hydrant at the corner of Third and Campbell streets took third place in the "Art on Fire" fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 Meghan McKenna took second place with her “Color Storm” in the “Art on Fire” fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer. It is located at Third and State streets.

Meghan McKenna took second place with her "Color Storm" in the "Art on Fire" fire hydrant painting contest in Geneva this summer. It is located at Third and State streets.

 

Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

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Tia Holinger was painting a fire hydrant in August at Third and Fulton streets in Geneva when a passer-by asked if she was hurt and OK.

After all, the Geneva resident was lying on her side to get the best angle for her creation, "Courthouse Owls," which took first place in the city's inaugural "Art on Fire" hydrant design contest.

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"I got lots of encouragement as I painted," Holinger, an art teacher at St. Francis High School in Wheaton, said Thursday.

"When we were thinking about it, we were like, 'What's special to Geneva?' " said Holinger, who recalled how owls would nest every spring in a large tree outside the courthouse on Third Street. "It was a really fun activity. You see people jump out of cars and take pictures next to the fire hydrants."

Overall, 41 hydrants were painted as part of the public art contest and winners were honored by the Geneva City Council this week.

Meghan McKenna's "Color Storm" at State and Third streets, and Lorraine Ochsner's "Santa" at Fifth and Campbell streets were awarded second and third place, respectively. The hydrants were judged by the city's Public Arts Advisory Committee and Cultural Arts Commission.

Mayor Kevin Burns said he was pleased with participation in the contest and suggested the city conduct it again, especially since there are plenty of hydrants in the city.

"I think this particular program is a natural progression of our desire to be an art friendly community. We've got over 1,700 of these fire hydrants that have yet to be designed. Ample opportunity awaits," Burns said.

"I believe the numbers lend themselves to others participating. I was very pleased with the response. I felt confident that if we could provide a canvas, our citizens would respond."

A virtual tour of all the decorated hydrants on an interactive map is available on the city's website.

The contest did not have a specific theme, but the program encouraged artists to incorporate the character of the hydrant's surrounding environment into the design. City staff members reviewed and approved all application designs to make sure they did not compromise the visibility of the fire hydrants.

Geneva Ace Hardware also donated half-pint paint colors to artists.

Cultural Arts Commission Chairman Tim Vetang agreed with Burns' desire to hold the contest again, perhaps next spring. Nothing official has been decided.

"You still see people driving by and pointing to them," Vetang said. "The nice thing about the project is it's pretty accessible to everyone who comes to town. They don't have to make any special effort to enjoy some public art."

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