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Strike a … paintbrush? School of Art alumna sets Geneva ‘on fire’

June 5, 2014
Eric Pairitz and NIU alumna Michelle Pairitz

Eric Pairitz and NIU alumna Michelle Pairitz

NIU School of Art alumna Michelle Pairitz, a principal of the Chicago office of smartdept. inc., considers herself an “aspiring Picasso.”

Residents of Geneva are likely to dispute the “aspiring” part of that description, however, now that Pairitz and her husband, Eric, made a very public return to their painterly roots.

Michelle Pairitz, who earned her BFA with an emphasis in Illustration in May 1998, joined her husband to paint a fire hydrant in the Kane County town as part of its “Art on Fire” program.

She blogged Wednesday about their experience creating public art.

As you know, one of the aspirations we feel strongly about at smartdept. inc. is being good corporate citizens and giving back to our communities. And one of the programs nearest to our hearts is the “Art on Fire” hydrant design program, sponsored by the city of Geneva, Illinois.

“Art on Fire,” now in its second year, seeks to spread Geneva’s creative spirit throughout the community by inviting artists to “adopt” and paint one of the city’s 1,800+ fire hydrants. My longtime friends Sarah and Jeff Golden, who live in the historic downtown area of Geneva, asked Eric and me to participate by painting the hydrant in front of their house. We were excited to submit our application and drawing for the city’s approval (and maybe just a tad worried they might not like it?!?)

Michelle and Eric Pairitz's fire hydrantEric and I are diehard fine arts fans – he’s a graduate of the Ringling College of Art and Design, and I have a bachelor’s in Fine Art from Northern Illinois University – so you can imagine we were happy to support this worthy cause and help Geneva bring art deeper into the community. In May, after our design was vetted by Geneva’s Public Arts Advisory Committee and Cultural Arts Commission, we got out the paint and got creative with this unusually shaped “canvas.”

Forty-one fire hydrants became works of art last year and, according to the city’s website, “the program was well received by residents and visitors who took notice of the artwork in the downtown and surrounding areas.”

With offices in Chicago and Seattle, smartdept. inc. is a creative and marketing talent resource that provides companies with freelance, contract direct hire and contract-to-hire candidates.

The company’s mission is “to bring the best talent to our clients while maintaining a very high standard of customer service at all times, including access to a physical human on the phone outside of normal business hours!”