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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There: Artists paint Pride flag in intersection outside Riverfront Park

By Elena Perry The Spokesman-Review

Kicking off Pride month, artists on Sunday painted the intersection just south of Riverfront Park with a massive Pride flag.

The intersection of Spokane Falls Boulevard and Howard Street got the rainbow treatment.

The installation is the result of efforts by Spokane Arts, in partnership with City Council Member Zack Zappone. Years in the making, the Spokane Arts Commission and the Riverside Neighborhood Council approved the project and design.

This street mural is the first in an ongoing project, the Asphalt Art program, which has funding to paint six crosswalks and 29 intersections around Spokane.

On June 23, the group will paint a crosswalk in the Perry District like a rainbow. The other crosswalk locations haven’t been finalized.

Each Spokane neighborhood will be able to apply for their own intersection mural. Community members will be able to participate in the process of selecting an artist, a design and a location for their street mural.

“Any neighborhood who wants to beautify their area and help calm traffic via public art will soon be able to apply for their own piece of asphalt art, and each neighborhood council will be able to select a qualified artist and review proposed designs,” said Shelby Allison, the Asphalt Art program manager.

Allison estimates the mural will last from six months to a year.

The project is funded by a nearly $1 million contract between the City Council and Spokane Arts. Part of that figure is for murals like the one downtown, with remaining funds allotted to paint the six crosswalks.

The money comes from the city’s traffic calming fund, with revenue collected from traffic camera fines.

A 2019 Bloomberg Philanthropies study suggests that street murals improve traffic safety, and bright colors can increase pedestrian visibility. In crosswalks the study evaluated, crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists decreased by 50%.

However, in 2001, the Federal Highway Administration determined colorful crossings don’t have an effect on pedestrian safety, and the federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices only allows solid white lines to be used in crosswalks.

A handful of local artists, led by designer Tiffany Patterson, spread paint along the street to fill the straight stripes of the rainbow on Sunday. Patterson held a rolling paint brush, carefully pushing a glob of blue paint up against its green neighbor. Patterson flexed her hands, smeared with orange and white paint and coated their callouses in liquid bandage to keep the blisters from popping. She was sweating, but not just from the midday heat.

“It’s very much a workout,” Patterson said. “I’m using different muscles I don’t normally use when painting.”

With the sun beating down on them, artists slathered themselves in sunscreen and took breaks to cool off in the Rotary Fountain immediately across from their canvas.

“That’s like the best part of this,” Patterson said. “I’m just so honored to be a part of it, to get to paint with all my friends.”

The installation drew attention from passersby, some stopping to ask questions or take pictures. One onlooker slipped an artist a $5 bill as a donation. Public reception was generally supportive, the artists said, with one person offering to lend a hand pouring a pail of paint.

“It’s something different from our daily lives, as monotonous as they are,” said Grant Ogren, executive director of Spokane AIDS Network, who collaborated on the project.

“So many people go to work, come home, go to work, come home and that’s all they do. They need a little color in their lives.”

Work to watch for

Work on stormwater tanks beginning Monday will close lanes of Spokane Falls Boulevard between Wall and Lincoln streets.

Haven Street between Columbia and Rockwell avenues will close Monday for intersection work as part of the North Spokane Corridor project. Traffic will be detoured to Market Street.

South Riverton Avenue between Ermina Avenue and Fiske Street will close Monday for work connecting the North Spokane Corridor bridge across the Spokane River.

The Rosamond Bridge, which has been closed since April 2021, will be repaired later this summer. Kuney Construction won the bid to repair the damaged bridge.

Roads in the East Central neighborhood will close Thursday afternoon from 1 - 2:30 p.m. for the Scott Trot. Fourth Avenue between Freya and Florida streets, Fifth and Sixth avenues from Rebecca to Florida streets and Rebecca, Myrtle and Florida streets between Fourth and Sixth avenues will be closed.

Crown Avenue between Division and Mayfair streets will close from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday for the Northeast Youth & Family Services Spring Market & Resource Fair.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on June 5, 2023, to reflect the correct number of intersections and crosswalks that may be painted as part of a citywide project.