Inclusion is key for hydrant artists sprucing up Huntington

Pathfinder Little River Art Group artists Alan Cullan (left) and April England transform the fire hydrant outside the Pathfinder Services location on State Street into an Incredibles cartoon character. Their group, along with artists from Creative Abilities, Pos’Abilities and Essential Skills Class groups have joined area artists in beautifying Huntington with the freshly painted hydrants.
Pathfinder Little River Art Group artists Alan Cullan (left) and April England transform the fire hydrant outside the Pathfinder Services location on State Street into an Incredibles cartoon character. Their group, along with artists from Creative Abilities, Pos’Abilities and Essential Skills Class groups have joined area artists in beautifying Huntington with the freshly painted hydrants. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Artists from all across Huntington County have been sprucing up 41 fire hydrants around town, painting cartoon figures on them in Huntington’s downtown district and other major points throughout the city. The artists, many of them well-known, include members of the Creative Abilities, Pos’Abilities and Little River Art Group as well as the Essential Skills class from Huntington North High School.

“Inclusion” being the key word, since three of the artist groups are mainly comprised of Pathfinder Services clients and the high school class is part of Huntington County Community School Corporation’s special education program.

Debbie Dyer, executive director of the LaFontaine Arts Council, which is sponsoring the hydrant-painting project, says the people in the four groups, most of whom have developmental disabilities, are very much artists in their own right.

“Pathfinder’s mission statement is to include these clients in the community – awareness in the community for the clients,” Dyer says. “They’ve participated in JeFFFest and they have a store at Creative Abilities … and I just think inclusion is a huge thing.”

This year’s theme is superhero and cartoon characters, with each hydrant sporting a different character. The Pos’Abilities hydrant is located at Guilford and Washington streets; The Creative Abilities hydrant is on Theater Avenue at the entrance to the Knights of Columbus; The Little River Art Group’s hydrant is in front of Pathfinder Services at 1152 E. State St.; and the Essential Skills Class hydrant is at the corner of MacGahan and Oak streets, across from the high school.

Pathfinder Services staff member Amy Rakoczy, of the Little River Art Group, says the artists in her group decided to paint the hydrant outside the Pathfinder entrance at 1152 E. State St., where their art studio is located.

The art studios in Huntington provide creative opportunities for adults with intellectual disabilities who are served by Pathfinder Community Supports’ Day Services program. At the studios clients create using various media including paint, sewing and paper-maché.

“(It gives them a chance) to get outside, enjoy the weather, have fun and get outside,” Rakoczy said.

Little River Artist Vickie Cundiff says she’s never painted a fire hydrant before, and she’s never heard of the Incredibles character the group was painting on it, but despite overcoming a physical challenge she is excited about the project.

“I like working on it,” she says. “It’s kind of boring when you have to bend over and your back hurts like that, but it’s OK.”

Alan Cullan also added his talent to the masterpiece, saying he liked painting the hydrant.

“It makes me happy,” he says.

“It’s cool,” adds April England, too busy painting to expound on her excitement.

At Huntington North High School, Essential Skills teacher Valerie Hughes says she is thrilled the artists in the special ed classes are receiving notice for their talents. When she got an invitation asking whether anyone from the Essential Skills classes would be interested in painting a fire hydrant, she was overcome with emotion and pride.

“I thought, wouldn’t that be neat for the high school to be represented by a group of kids that don’t get noticed,” she says. “It’s the whole part of being a part of the community. This is their community, and when people take the tour and they see Essential Skills Classroom-Huntington North High School, and perhaps somebody didn’t realize there was a classroom here that supports students with special needs, I think that just shows that they have talent.”
Student Adyn Chenoweth, 16, whose forte is mainly doing ink drawings, sketched the design for the hydrant, located at the corner of Oak and MacGahan streets.

“It’s the Riddler,” he says, referring to one of Batman’s nemeses. He says the main colors will be green and black.
Chenoweth’s had experience doing all sorts of drawings, his favorite being elephants and dinosaurs.

While Chenoweth is a young man of few words, he gets right to the point about how he’ll feel when people drive by and see the artwork he and the other students in the Essential Skills Class have created for the city and community.

“Happy,” he says.