Umbrella Arts announces fire hydrant painting

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Lori Wallace painted a sample fire hydrant at the corner of Highway 52 and Schiller to kick off the Umbrella Arts fire hydrant painting project. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

It started with bicycles. They began popping up all over town in the summer of 2014, before RAGBRAI ended in Guttenberg. The bikes were mounted on balconies and rooftops, appearing in shop windows and on sidewalks, incorporated into garden landscapes and even given cleverly sculpted riders of all sorts. In the end, over 50 re-imagined bicycles decorated the city of Guttenberg that summer. 

This was the beginning of the Umbrella Arts summer sculpture project, which is now entering its third year. In 2015, community members were invited to make Guttenberg a more welcoming, friendly community by adding hand-built or decorated seating to the city - encouraging locals and visitors alike to 'Sit and Enjoy the Scenery.' 

This year Umbrella Arts, an initiative of Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center, announced their third annual summer sculpture project.

With permission from the City of Guttenberg and the Guttenberg Fire Department, this year’s theme is Festive Fire Hydrants. Families, business owners, artists and community members who would like to participate should apply for the hydrant they’d like to paint (to eliminate duplication) and include a brief description of their idea. Applications are available online at, or in hard copy at the Welcome Center, Guttenberg Gallery and Creativity Center, and at The Guttenberg Press. Organizers Karen Riser and Lori Wallace hope to see youth groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts, businesses, and families get involved in painting at least 15-20 of the 154 hydrants in town.

Those looking for inspiration might find it with the help of Google or Pinterest. Like clouds in the sky, fire hydrants can become just about anything with enough imagination: animals, people in hats, robots, and even cartoon characters. Others may choose a more abstract route, painting their hydrants in a theme like Stars and Stripes, famous artists, floral designs, or sports teams. Anything goes - as long as it's family friendly and does not modify the hydrant beyond adding a fresh coat of paint.

Participants have until June 30 to work on their hydrants, and by then all painting must be completed with photographs emailed to Photos of each painted hydrant will be viewable online at the website listed above and community members will be encouraged to vote for their favorite. Voting will take place from July 1 to July 15, and the winners will be announced at the July 22 River of Music concert.

All participants will have a chance to win first, second and third prizes of $100, $75, and $50, respectively, with prizes sponsored by Umbrella Arts.

Paint used must be weather proof, outdoor paint that can be used on cast-iron, such as Rustoleum or XO Rust. Both Kuempel True Value and Meuser Lumber sell such paint locally.

Any hydrant in town is eligible for the project, and motivated participants can even paint more than one. “We encourage you to select a hydrant on River Park Drive, Highway 52, or Schiller Street, but hydrants on your own street are also welcome,” say organizers. 

There is no cost to participate in the summer sculpture project. More information is available at

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