Wineka column: Hydrants become art in Granite Quarry

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2011

By Mark Wineka
GRANITE QUARRY — Usually only dogs and firefighters hang out around hydrants.
So why has Faith Cannon been spending hours lately with a few fire plugs in Granite Quarry?
Cannon, 35, has found a way to combine her artistic talents with a passion for her town where she and her husband are raising three children.
Over recent weeks, Cannon has been painting several fire hydrants in Granite Quarry, making them pieces of urban art that often lead to a second look.
“Our fire hydrants have character,” Mayor Mary S. Ponds says.
With the Fire Department’s blessing and encouragement, Cannon has painted the folds of an American flag on a U.S. 52 (Salisbury Avenue) hydrant outside the barber shop.
She transformed the hydrant at the fire station into a playful Dalmatian, and this week she has been putting the finishing touches on the hydrant outside of Granite Quarry Elementary School.
The school’s hydrant includes three dragons — the school’s mascot. It also has colorful stars in addition to the school’s official blue and white colors incorporated into a sky-like background. Cannon made sure to add the words “Go Dragons.”
Cannon describes herself as a stay-at-home mom, but she also is a jewelry maker and tattoo artist, who has put the latter career on hold. Her husband, John, is a Granite Quarry firefighter, and she gladly obliged when the department asked her to paint the hydrant at the fire station.
“Then I asked if I could do more,” she says.
It wasn’t as easy a proposition as you might expect. Chiseling off the old paint and preparing a hydrant as a new canvas takes some elbow grease. Firefighters have provided that.
The “bonnets” (top parts) on fire hydrants also are painted red, green, blue and orange to indicate for firefighters the water flow to hydrants. Those colors have to be there.
“It kind of limits what she can do,” Town Manager Dan Peters says.
But with the hydrants she already has painted, Cannon has found a way to incorporate the color of the bonnet into her artwork. She hopes to paint two more, including a hydrant at Granite Lake Park.
Themes she is thinking about are a North Carolina flag and some kind of 10th anniversary memorial related to Sept. 11, 2001.
Peters and Fire Chief David Morris purposely decided that only five of the town’s 100-plus hydrants should be done for now. They didn’t want to overdo a good thing.
Peters says he has seen other towns where all the hydrants are painted with the same kind of artwork. When that happens, he says, they tend to lose whatever unique appeal they were supposed to have.
Cannon has donated all her time. Peters says her artwork is a nice citizen-driven complement to the planters on the square. “Little steps,” he adds of the community appearance efforts in tight budget times.
“I think it’s awesome,” Ponds, the mayor, says of Cannon’s painting contribution. The hydrants have flair and a side benefit, the mayor thinks.
“It makes you look to see where there are fire hydrants and how close they are to you,” Ponds says.
Peters says Cannon takes a long time with each fire plug and does it right. He especially likes the American flag hydrant along Salisbury Avenue, and Cannon says it’s her favorite, too.
“It just jumps out at you,” Peters says.
Cannon also has designed two T-shirts for the Fire Department. She says she can do anything “craftsy,” and has always had a natural talent in art.
“I was born with it,” she says.
Sgt. Todd Taylor of the Police Department provided a tent for Cannon while she was painting the hydrant along U.S. 52. Shade trees have been a great help at the elementary school.
“It kind of makes me feel good,” Cannon says. “I enjoy painting, and I enjoy doing something for the community, too.”
Contact Mark Wineka at or 704-797-4263.