Student Fiona Scholl paints a rainbow sidewalk in 2015 as part of an art project to celebrate diversity. - Credit: Contributed

Rainbow crosswalk more than colourful art, says artist

The Lake Country community has had discussions online about a rainbow crosswalk

The rainbow crosswalk is more than a colourful art piece, it’s a statement from a municipality, says one Lake Country artist.

“I think when you see a rainbow crosswalk in a community it’s a visual cue to you as a visitor or member of the community that as a community, the town or municipality has made a statement by putting down a crosswalk and the statement is they hold in high values human rights protections, tolerance and diversity,” said Lake Country Art Gallery curator Wanda Lock. “It’s saying we as a community holds these values.”

The role of the artist is to observe society and reflect back on it and its issues, said Lock.

A few years ago rainbow crosswalks came into the spotlight after Kelowna got its painted crosswalks in its downtown; Lock then spearheaded the movement to allow students to paint their own rainbow sidewalk in Lake Country. It wasn’t permanent.

Recently a rainbow crosswalk in Lake Country had made its way back to online discussions after a Facebook post was made about the City of Merritt’s decision to not paint a crosswalk.

The discussions range from support of a crosswalk to saying it’s a waste of tax dollars.

Lock said she was disturbed by some of the comments made, “some feel potholes are more important than tolerance, diversity and human rights.”

The Lake Country Art Gallery currently has a fitting exhibition called ‘Who Are We?’ from local artists who aim to create a narrative on defining the Lake Country community.

“The reason why I wanted to do the community show was I attended a lot of town hall meetings when we were doing the Official Community Plan last year and the conversations were great but we never actually defined what a community was,” said Lock.

“There was lots of ‘I and me’ conversations instead of ‘us and we’ conversations.” She asked artists what they thought makes a community and was answered with diversity, human rights and equality.

According to Mayor James Baker, the district had looked into a rainbow crosswalk near Municipal Hall, but it’s not a priority.

“I had read that one about the Merritt council, that surprised me. Their reason was that they thought they’d have to put in colourful sidewalks for every community (organization),” he chuckled.

“It hasn’t gone away, it just hasn’t been on top of our engineering priority.”

Greg Buchholz, director of infrastructure services with the district, said there is no plan for a crosswalk anytime soon, and the initiative would have to come from the community and council.

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Student Fiona Scholl paints a rainbow sidewalk in 2015 as part of an art project to celebrate diversity. - Credit: Contributed

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