Residents paint fire hydrants through Paint-a-Plug Program

Anyone can rent a hydrant and choose a random one or one that’s in an important place to them.


Zohair Khan

A fire hydrant outside of the Egyptian Theatre, 35 N. Second St, painted Egyptian themed.

By Joey Trella, Marketing Team Coordinator

DeKALB — Currently, there are 22 fire hydrants around DeKalb painted with unique designs from residents. This is because of the City of DeKalb’s Paint-a-Plug Program.

This program was first started in 2018 by the Citizens Community Enhancement Commission (CCEC). The commission organized this as an opportunity for the local residents and students to contribute to making DeKalb look brighter. 

Paint-a-Plug Program is actually not unique to DeKalb. Neighboring towns like Geneva have also invested in a similar project. 

“One of the things that we the Citizens Community Enhancement was looking at, ‘how do we facilitate public art projects within the city of DeKalb?’” Brad Hoey, DeKalb County Convention Special Projects Manager, said. “Especially those that might be of interest to citizens throughout the year.”

Hoey said to go through this process, the CCEC had to communicate with the Public Works Department and the DeKalb Fire Department to make sure they had the right equipment to do this. 

Hoey said CCEC also looked for funding for the supplies, which the company OC Creative and its owner Brian Oster generously donated $100 every time a “plug” is painted. 

“It’s fantastic because it’s not a project that costs a lot of money and this way we made sure that if anybody wanted to participate in the project, they can,” Hoey said. 

The Paint-a-Plug website shows pictures of previously painted “plugs.” One of their recent artists, Meg Forti painted a “plug” in honor of her husband who ran the Chicago Marathon 2021 in support of March of Dimes, a program to help mothers and babies. 

“There’s a colleague of mine at the DeKalb School District whose daughter passed and her friends had painted a fire hydrant near their home in honor and so I thought that was a beautiful tribute to her,” Forti said. “She was a nurse and so it reminded me of the Northwestern Medicine nurses that were there for me when I had gone through losing my pregnancy at 35 weeks.”

DeKalb resident Megan Forti painted a plug for Northwestern Medicine and March of Dimes. (Courtesy of Megan Forti)

Forti said she painted a hydrant purple in honor of Northwestern Medicine and the March of Dimes. She also wrote “for our angel babies” with wings on both sides of the fire hydrant. 

“It was a lot harder than I thought to paint,” Forti said. “I don’t consider myself an artist by any means but it was just like a labor of love. It was a way of therapy, way of putting it out there and getting through it. My husband and I were able to do it as a project together.”

With the reconfiguration project of Lincoln Highway, Hoey and the commission look to expand the painting program to utility boxes downtown. They are also hoping to start murals as well. DeKalb residents and students can submit designs or applications to the commission soon. They are looking to have at least two boxes completed by Corn Fest, which begins Aug. 26.

For now, anyone is welcome to paint a plug in DeKalb, whether it is in front of their own home or somewhere that’s important to them. More information is on their website as well as how to register for the program.