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Coquitlam paints rainbow crosswalk as PoCo eyes LGBT2Q+ art

Port Coquitlam is looking at a "unique" public art work to show its community pride.

The night before Coquitlam painted its new rainbow crosswalk next to city hall, the city of Port Coquitlam said it would look at a “unique” art project to also celebrate the LGBT2Q+ community.

At Tuesday’s finance and budget committee, PoCo councillors voted 5-1 (Mayor Greg Moore wasn’t at the meeting) to spend $20,000 on a public installation — more than double the amount originally budgeted in last year’s financial plan — to create an inclusive piece in a high-profile spot.

The request to bump the cost from $9,000 — with the additional $11,000 coming from the city’s arts and culture reserve, which currently stands at around $500,000 — came after city staff met with arts leaders via the Cultural Roundtable as well as youth and LGBT2Q+ groups.

They suggested a number of options, with the most popular being an installation similar in scope to the Canada 150 Mural Mosaic, which was placed at Leigh Square Community Arts Village last year to mark the country’s sesquicentennial; the total cost for that project was $18,180.

The 48 people consulted about PoCo’s “Rainbow Project” also recommended the city hire an LGBTQ2+ artist to work with residents to develop an installation such as a mural mosaic or garden.

Lori Bowie, PoCo’s recreation director, told the committee the aim is produce a unique symbol where people would reflect about inclusiveness instead of painting a typical rainbow crosswalk. She said the vision grew after city staff held focus groups to talk about possibilities.

Coun. Brad West criticized city managers for the inflated figure, telling Bowie, “It puts council in an untenable position.”

“There’s now an expectation created,” Coun. Glenn Pollock added. “How do you pull that back?”

City manager John Leeburn said the extra amount came up at a department heads meeting and managers soon realized $9,000 wouldn’t be enough. “We want something more meaningful,” he said.

Coun. Darrell Penner said numbers are hard to pin down for creative projects and “because this is the first project for the LGBT2Q+, I’m going to support it. I would like to see it be successful.”

Still, committee chair Coun. Dean Washington opposed the extra funding, warning the city may be flooded with applications by other arts and cultural groups to have similar representation.

The call for an LGBT2Q+ artwork came to city council last year at at the request of a PoCo church. At the time, council had asked staff to look at ideas other than a rainbow crosswalk.

“I think that the message that needs to be brought to the forefront is that the city is inclusive and welcoming of diversity,” said Nicola Spurling, a Coquitlam resident, former BC Green Party candidate and spokesperson of the new Tri-Cities Pride Society. “The way that it’s being portrayed with crosswalks in Coquitlam and Port Moody are wonderful, but if PoCo has another way of going about it, that’s fantastic and we would love to see what they’re looking at doing.”

Meanwhile, Coquitlam’s rainbow crosswalk, which cost around $10,000, was painted on Burlington Drive at Pinetree Way by contractors Wednesday evening. The crosswalk also includes a plaque to describe the public artwork and its call for inclusiveness in Coquitlam.

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