As Spokane transforms many of its Expo ’74-era icons, one council member believes it’s also time for a new flag.
The city’s flag, which depicts silhouettes of four people under a sun and is emblazoned with expo-themed colors, was designed in the 1970s. The flag, which may have been handmade, according to Spokesman-Review archives, was lost in storage for many years and rediscovered soon after Mayor David Condon took office.
The only known copy, which is faded and made of a soft silk or satin fabric, hangs in the mayor’s conference room on the top floor of City Hall.
Councilwoman Kate Burke, the sponsor of an ordinance and resolution to create a work group that would develop a plan for a new flag, said it’s time to create something more modern that Spokane residents can show off with pride.
“I love Expo, don’t get me wrong,” she said. “(but) we’re more than Expo.”
Burke, who lived in Chicago for two years, has a tattoo of that city’s flag on the back of her leg. She said she’s loved flags for years and wanted to update Spokane’s before she was involved in politics. She said she hopes the group and an artist can come up with a design that is as ubiquitous as Chicago’s, which visitors and locals can buy on mugs or bumper stickers and display proudly.
“I just think flags can be so much more,” she said.
If Burke’s group comes up with a flag design, it would be the fourth city flag. The city’s first flag was likely created around 1912, according to archives provided by the city’s historical office, and was blue with a white line down the center and a sun. Some versions of the flag included an “S” inside the sun.
The city’s second flag was purple and featured a cityscape atop a bridge. It also had a pine, a star, a sun and the words “Spokane the Lilac City” with an arrow through them.
The city’s current flag was designed Lloyd L. Carlson, the art director at an advertising company and creator of the symbol representing Spokane World’s Fair. His design was approved by City Council in 1975 and was sewn by two Spokane women who were known for their skills at repairing church banners, according to Spokesman-Review archives.
In a letter to Expo official Jack Geraghty in 1972, Carlson wrote that the colors that appear on the the mobius-based symbol that represents Expo ’74 (and would later be used on the city’s flag), represent harmony, caring for the environment and recreation. The white element represents air, the blue represents pure water and green represents unspoiled natural beauty. Geraghty, a former county commissioner, would later be elected the city’s mayor.
Burke’s resolution would create a group made up of Spokane residents, members of the arts commission, a representative from the City Council and mayor’s office and an individual representing tribes, who would be tasked to come up with guidelines or a design. Burke said she hopes the group will pick colors or other parameters, and put out a call for artists to design a flag.
Council members Candace Mumm and Breean Beggs said they would support such a group. Beggs said constituents have been asking for a flag redesign since he has been a council member.
He said he didn’t see anything wrong with the old flag design, but would like to see what a group might come up with.
“I didn’t find it objectionable,” Beggs said, “but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.”
Condon said he supported getting a group together to look at the flag design and hopes they’ll come up with a simple design that’s more similar to Spokane’s first flag.
Burke plans to introduce the resolution during the June 3 council meeting.
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