This illustration shows what newly painted crosswalks at Shoppers and 11th Avenue are proposed to look like. The public art piece is aimed at sprucing up downtown and is a nod to the historical geography of the area.

Downtown crosswalks to become canvasses

Campbell Riverites will be walking on water as early as next week.

Well, it will look like they’re walking on water.

Three downtown crosswalks at Shoppers Row and 11th Avenue will be painted in an underwater theme. Blue squiggly lines are intended to mimic waves on the ocean, with a variety of white-painted shells topping off the public art piece. The design, created by artist Alex Witcombe, harkens back to the days when the tides came in as far as the Tidemark Theatre.

“These crosswalks sit on reclaimed land,” says Michele Sirett, the city’s recreation and culture supervisor. “Before Tyee Plaza, these crosswalks would have sat in the shoreline. The area was called Codfish Flats.”

The initiative, aimed at sprucing up the downtown core, is the first project of the city’s Public Art Committee which was formed last December. Ken Blackburn, chair of the committee, said the idea was one of eight submissions from the community to rejuvenate and revitalize downtown.

“A crosswalk is a wonderful canvas and it deals with the details of Campbell River,” Blackburn says. Details which Blackburn says had been neglected after the city permanently lost the mill nearly six years ago. Garbage cans, crosswalks, light standards, the poles with ropes wound around them along Pier Street, were all falling into disrepair. That’s when the idea for a Public Art Committee was first floated but Blackburn said it was a tough sell.

“No, art isn’t necessarily going to be bringing in jobs but it helps you sell your community,” Blackburn says.

The crosswalks are a good first step, he says.

“It is something that could be really successful in taking on crosswalks as a character of our town,” he says. “They’ve been done in other cities for years – it’s nothing new. But it’s new here.

“The committee thought it would be a good first move. It’s simple, not overly complex, but it starts the conversation.”

Witcombe will be painting overnight on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – one crosswalk each night – between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. in order to minimize the impact of closing the road.

Blackburn says the paintings will remain in place for two years. After the first year, the crosswalks will be touched up to keep them looking fresh and vibrant.

He says the crosswalks will be colourful and bright without being a distraction for motorists.

“It’s a design you can see from across the sidewalk and you can take it in in motion,” Blackburn says. “I think it’ll go over well.”

And at $9,000, which includes the cost of materials, touch ups and artist fees for three crosswalks over two years, Blackburn says it’s a good investment.

“This is the kind of thing that can give us a strong definition so I’d love to see tourism or economic development get involved,” Blackburn says. “It certainly complements any downtown business or any downtown business initiative.”