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Published: Tuesday, 7/6/2004

Flag City plots a patriotic promotion as spruced-up stars to shine in Findlay

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY - Toledo had its frogs, Maumee, its walleye. Now Findlay - known for 30 years as Flag City USA - will have its stars.

The Arts Partnership of Greater Hancock County is looking for local artists to decorate 3.5-foot fiber-glass stars that will adorn downtown Findlay next spring.

"Obviously this was inspired by other projects around the country and in other Ohio cities," said Kate Macek, communications director for the arts organization. "We thought it would be a great community event."

The arts partnership is accepting applications until July 12 from local artists and groups who would like to decorate a star. This fall, local businesses will be invited to check out the proposals and choose a star to sponsor.

"Something like this can really unite the community and display local talent," said Char Johannigman, the new executive director of the arts partnership.

While she was not working for the agency when the star idea was born, she's excited about it.

"I saw the pigs in Cincinnati," she said. "I've seen a few of them. It's definitely something that brings people to the downtown."

Chicago had cows. Washington had elephants and donkeys. Monroe, Mich. recently decided to make the muskrat its mascot, and Lima has a gaggle of decorated concrete geese perched around its downtown this summer.

In Findlay, sponsors will pay between $1,500 to $2,000 for a star. A star could be placed in front of a downtown business that sponsors it, but most will be placed at sites throughout the downtown. A portion of the money, $600, will go to the artists to pay for supplies and for their work.

Following the lead of other cities that have done similar public art projects, the faceted, three-dimensional stars will ultimately be auctioned with the proceeds going in part to the sponsor's charity of choice and to the arts partnership's education program.

Forty applications for star designs have been distrib-

uted, and the proposals have been filtering in to the arts partnership's South Main Street office.

Ms. Johannigman said it's interesting to see the variety. These will definitely not be standard red, white, and blue fare. "They've been very diverse, very unique," she said. "It's exciting."

Ms. Macek said the committee toyed with a number of ideas before settling on a star. Many cities have chosen animals, although Cleveland - home of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame has guitars - but the Findlay committee wanted to try something different.

Since Findlay was declared Flag City USA by Congress in 1974, the committee considered flags, Ms. Macek said, but decided wildly decorated American flags might not go over too well. Stars seemed safer.

"Some people have said, 'Oh it's not an animal,' but I think it will still turn out neat," she said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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