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Manhole Covers Become Art

The utilitarian manhole cover is getting a lot of attention in the U.S. these days. India is the world's leading manufacturer of manhole covers -- many of which make their way to the U.S. As Amy Katz reports, in this story produced by Deepak Bobhal of VOA's Hindi Service, they now are being turned into usable art.

On the busy streets of New York City people rush from place to place without even noticing them. But the 50 kilogram round plates that prevent people from falling into the city's manholes actually bear very intricate designs. Though their function is to cover the holes in streets through which sewers, drains and other structures are reached; manhole covers have long been admired for their beauty. Now designers are turning them into usable art, which people are paying a lot of money to own.

Michael Miller is one such artist. He is turning manhole covers into tables. "When I get reaction from people who have bought them or who want one, they are very enthusiastic about it."

Manhole covers are also gaining popularity as lamps. Michele Brody dreamed up the idea as she walked around New York City. "The manhole covers there just have some very wonderful unique patterns and designs. And when they are lit from behind, they have a wonderful glowing effect because I use this soft white light."

Buyers agree -- paying $450 a piece for her creations. But Michele Brody says she may be willing to drop her prices to make her manhole cover art more accessible and affordable.

She loves manhole covers so much; she even got involved in a public works project -- designing a series of manhole covers to commemorate some of New York City's history.