PITTSTON — One by one, many blank canvases — otherwise known as fire hydrants — are being transformed into works of art throughout the city.
Pittston Parks and Recreation Committee member Brian Matyjevich’s idea from September of 2015, in which artists are commissioned to paint the city’s hydrants through local sponsors, continues to grow.
Now, he’s splattered 17 of the city’s fire hydrants with vibrant and fun colors.
But the work has just started. Matyjevich said there are plans for another dozen hydrants to be painted over the next several months.
The idea for Arts on Fire: Pittston City came to Matejevich during a trip to Philadelphia last year. He noticed hydrants near the city had been painted. The rest is painted history.
“Resident feedback has been great while out working on the hydrants, thanking us for the nice touch to the neighborhoods,” Matyjevich said.
Matyjevich said residents living near hydrants have removed “weeds, litter and gravel” once the hydrants have been painted.
“Residents and businesses are taking pride in that area where they did not in the past,” he said.
The Matyjevich family donates their time and supplies to sand, scrape and clean the hydrants so they can be ready for an artist. They apply a thick coat of primer to give the hydrant a blank canvas. When the artist is finished painting, Matyjevich returns to seal the hydrant.
Matyjevich said there are about 150 hydrants in the city.
Artist Kristen Rinaldi, who helped Michael Pilato put the finishing touches on the Inspiration Mural downtown, has completed four hydrants for the project and is working on another five. Rinaldi’s brush strokes can be seen up and down Main Street, to Broad Street and Mill Street.
She put the finishing touches on the project’s first hydrant this past fall. A fire-themed hydrant in front of the Pittston City Fire Headquarters, painted blue with orange and red flames, is sponsored by various donors. Since the first coat of paint, Matyjevich’s team added the initials of firefighters John F. Lombardo and Leonard C. Insalaco II. The two firefighters died of smoke inhalation while fighting a fire in March 1993.
Rinaldi has also completed a Zelda-themed hydrant at the corner of Broad and Main streets, sponsored by former area resident Luke Burch. She’s responsible for the Paint Pittston Pink hydrant on North Main Street near the Rite Aid and a train-themed hydrant sponsored by John Donahue.
Over the next few months, Rinaldi will paint a military-themed hydrant, a local history hydrant and a tomato-themed hydrant.
Matyjevich’s wife, Jillian, painted a hydrant on the corner of Church and William streets for St. John the Evangelist Church. She will soon work on a hydrant in the Junction for a lost loved one.
Artist Heidi Marie has painted two hydrants thus far and has one in progress. Her first hydrant can be seen on Tomato Festival Drive with a Friendly Sons of St. Patrick theme. The hydrant was sponsored by the Greater Pittston chapter of the group. On the corner of South Main and Mill Street, Marie completed a hydrant for Miles For Michael. Her next hydrant will be on Main Street, sponsored by the Friends of the Pittston Memorial Library.
Three hydrants have been painted by Jeff Evans, including a water company-themed one at Quinn’s Market, which was sponsored the family of a water company employee. He also painted a Butler Street hydrant to represent the Lithuanian flag for the Lithuanian Social Club. On Radcliffe Street, a Welsh flag-themed hydrant was sponsored by a local resident.
Nick Malasto, of NEPA Tattoo Club, painted one of the most recognizable hydrants at the corner of Main and William streets. His Star Wars hydrant depicts R2D2 and was sponsored by various donors. He will be working on two more hydrants.
Local artists Leigh Pawling and Liz Revit each painted one hydrant so far. Pawling’s yoga-themed hydrant for Home Yoga and Barre is located on Water Street at Kennedy Boulevard. Revit painted an Americana-themed hydrant near the Pittston Post Office, which was sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 162.
Brooklyn Graffiti has painted two hydrants, including a Greater Pittston Regional Ambulance Association one sponsored by councilman Michael Lombardo. The company also painted an Italian-themed hydrant on the corner of Columbus Avenue and South Main Street for the Montedoro Society of Pittston.
Two hydrants have been completed by anonymous artists. A chrome and metallic blue hydrant is located on the corner of Main Street and Butler Street. On Church Street near Sullivan Park, a Little League-themed hydrant for the Pittston City Little League was sponsored by FNCB Bank.
Each hydrant costs around $150, Matyjevich said. However, most of the artists donate their time and supplies to make the hydrants happen. In the future, Matyjevich hopes to expand outside of Pittston and work toward Duryea and West Pittston.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick