Nanaimo Pride Society board members and parade coordinators celebrate the completion of that city’s rainbow crosswalks in time for their Pride celebrations being held this weekend.

Downtown to get a rainbow (temporarily, anyway) to celebrate inclusion

Campbell River will be getting what many communities across B.C. and the rest of North America have had for some time: a rainbow crosswalk celebrating inclusivity, pride and the right of LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) people to just be who they are.

Although for now it will only be temporary.

The initiative, according to Tidemark Theatre programming and marketing coordinator Heidi Cuff, actually began “over a year and a half ago.”

At that time, the Tidemark had decided to organize the first Pride Party for Campbell River (see page 55), “and at the same time, North Island Pride wanted to run their festival, so we decided to join forces and make it just an awesome day with the festival during the afternoon and the party at night,” Cuff says.

Once that collaboration was made, she says, the idea came up that they could “visually connect” the two events with a rainbow crosswalk from Spirit Square to the Tidemark.

“But it was a bit late in the game to get the approval last year,” she says.

The delay, Cuff says, was that there wasn’t any policy in place in regards to public art at that point last year.

“City council was open to the idea, but they thought there should be a policy in place before moving forward,” she says.

With the formation of the city’s Public Art Committee, there was finally a mechanism and approval body in place for applications such as this one to be approved or denied.

Now that the installation has been approved, the painting of the crosswalk itself is scheduled for June 23 – weather permitting – to be in place for the festival and party on the 25th.

“It’ll be up for the whole weekend of Pride, and then we’ll be washing it off on the Monday to make way for a new three-way crosswalk,” she says, which is being installed by local artist Alex Witcombe on June 28.

Not everyone is happy about the colourful installation, however.

When Cuff announced the installation on Facebook, she says the announcement received many comments that were less than supportive.

One community member called out the initiative as being one where “defacing public property (is) condoned for a special interest group,” and others simply said the installation is “ridiculous.”

One opposing view came from someone claiming that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.

Others called it a waste of tax dollars, despite it costing zero of those.

Cloverdale Paint has donated the paint and all the work will be done by volunteers, Cuff says, “so that argument is just invalid.”

But Cuff says even the fact that some people are upset at the project tells her it’s already doing its job.

“Some people are all, ‘why is this necessary?’” she says, “and I would say to them, this is an art installation. Is art necessary? No, it’s not necessary, but does it educate and inspire? Does it spark controversy and debate? Does it promote healing? Absolutely. And this will do all of those things. It already has, obviously.”

Others complained that LGBTQ celebrations and art installations discriminate against straight folks.

“Some people are like, ‘why can’t I have a hetero crosswalk?’ and my answer to that is, ‘you totally can,’” Cuff says. “Now that there’s a policy in place and the Public Art Committee exists, there’s a way to do that exact thing. The policies are in place now. I think that’s why council deferred the first year and wanted these policies in place. If people want to move forward on those projects now, they absolutely can.”

Some, however, celebrated the announcement and called for it to be permanent.

To which Cuff replies, “we’re working on it.

“Now that there are processes in place, we’ll be working on getting something more permanent down there, but there are no concrete plans on what it will look like, yet.”

For now she’s just happy the conversation has begun and the temporary one is going in.

“Baby steps,” she says with a smile.

“Baby steps.”

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