What began as a tribute to hometown celebrity Oliver Hardy has now turned into a job for Harlem High School art student Mandie Dixon.
After painting the fire hydrant in front of Kay's Pharmacy as a likeness of Oliver Hardy for October's Oliver Hardy Festival, Mandie was hired by the city council to paint all of the town's hydrants.
"The person who rented the booth next to it was just so excited because everyone came to that spot to see it," Mandie's art teacher Margaret Shearouse said.
As a tribute to the rescue workers in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, most of the hydrants will be painted to depict firefighters and police. "I think they add some uniqueness to our city," said Scott Dean, a city councilman who brought the project before the board. "We thought she did such a good job on the Oliver Hardy one, that's why we talked to her about doing a lot of the visible ones in town."
"It was a way we could honor the firemen and policemen. All you hear is the complaints and the problems, and this shows we do care about them."
But hydrants near schools will go to the dogs - the Harlem Bulldogs. And of course, if you have Ollie, there must be his sidekick Stan Laurel.
"There are 30 hydrants in all, and I've done five so far," Mandie said.
She said it takes her about an hour and a half to paint each hydrant and she should finish the project within the next three weeks.
The city has budgeted about $600 for the project, Dean said.
"The first one she just did on her own, but (city officials) were so impressed they came up with some funding to help her out with the paint and all her time," Shearouse said. "I've really been pleased with the city council and the support they have given to our art program.."
Mandie, 17, the daughter of Tom and Trish Dixon, said she would like to attend the Atlanta College of Art or the Savannah College of Art & Design when she graduates.
For now, the hydrants are a perfect canvas for her artistic talent.
And they are getting a lot of attention.
"A lot of people stop when I am painting," Mandie said."And people I know just look at me like, 'What is she doing?"'
The best part is not the money or the prestige of being asked to paint the hydrants, Madie said. The best part, she said, is she will have to opportunity to leave her mark on the City of Harlem - literally.
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