The rainbow crosswalk created by the Knob Hill Urban Arts District
The group of artists that make up the Knob Hill Urban Arts District (the stretch of Platte Avenue between Union and Circle) may be street artists, but could hardly be considered misfits. As they’ve worked to beautify this area of central Colorado Springs that seldom gets attention for its art and culture, they have coordinated with the city and with local business owners to ensure that the art they create will not only function for the benefit of the artists, but the community as a whole.
Even so, as artist Paes164 puts it, “The city is growing so much, the city is super freaking busy. And for them to pay attention to us and what we're doing — we haven't gotten nothing back from them.”
So in this case, fellow artist Muji says they figured it might be easier, and faster, to ask for forgiveness rather than permission.
In an effort to celebrate Pride Month, the month of June, and the upcoming Colorado Springs PrideFest the first weekend of July, Paes and Muji, along with fellow artist Pikaso210, spent the night of June 24 dodging traffic à la Frogger
at the intersection of Platte Avenue and Platte Place, hurriedly spray-painting the intersection’s crosswalk in the colors of the rainbow pride flag.
“You know, we're not the first to do this,” Paes says. “A lot of cities are doing the rainbow crosswalks. A lot of those crosswalks are getting put in art district areas, right? So you know, we're thinking about what can we do to show support for Pride Month.”
It fits into the district’s vision, to proclaim inclusivity and artistic engagement. They’re taking the motto of Colorado Springs hero Fannie Mae Duncan to heart: Everybody Welcome. Duncan, the once-purveyor of the long-defunct Cotton Club, is a local legend whose legacy was one of integration and tolerance. They’re honoring her with a mural just a few blocks away from the rainbow crosswalk. The portrait is being painted by artist Molly McClure, with other arts district members contributing text and design elements.
The owner of the building, according to Paes, is “an old white dude — partied at Fannie Mae’s spot back in the day.” He supports the mural fully.
Molly McClure paints Fannie Mae Duncan, visible to drivers along Platte Avenue.
Unfortunately for Knob Hill, the rainbow crosswalk was not received with as much enthusiasm by the city of Colorado Springs.
Merely an hour after I visited Paes and Muji at Creator Supreme, Paes’ studio, and less than 24 hours after the crosswalk was painted, Knob Hill sent the Indy
an email saying the city was buffing out the paint.
Sure enough, by the time I arrived, half the crosswalk was gleaming white as alabaster, the other half proclaiming its Pride colors in stark contrast. On the north side of the street, members of the arts district looked on sadly while city workers sprayed away the paint, which apparently would have lasted a few months without intervention.
City workers remove the rainbow street art from the crosswalk at Platte Avenue and Platte Place.
Muji says, “We did this for free, we brightened this place up for free, and the city is charging us [taxpayers] to make it white again.”
Among the abandoned buildings, empty businesses and half-full parking lots, all of which the arts district looks at as blank canvases and opportunities, Muji says the city could do with paying more attention to what happens in Knob Hill when they need potholes filled or other issues addressed. “We were hoping they’d leave it [the crosswalk] alone like they leave everything else here,” he says. In his eyes, if it weren’t for the media coverage, the city may never even have known about the crosswalk.
According to one of the workers on the scene, response times to cleanup calls can be anywhere from a few hours to a day. Around 1:50 p.m. when half the crosswalk had been cleaned up, he said he received this particular call at around noon.
He added that crosswalks need to be visible at night, and are painted with reflective beads to make them stand out. The rainbow paint, he said, would make those beads invisible in the dark.
As of right now, the artists don’t know what the next step is, whether they will attempt again to go through official channels to create an official rainbow crosswalk in the area, or if they will leave this as is.
But their message has still been sent, loud and clear: Everybody Welcome. Whether you can see it or not.
UPDATE: We reached out to the city for comment about policies and response times. The city's communications department replied that the city has guidance for pavement markings that must be adhered to: "Signage and Pavement Marking Guidelines. This guidance is a supplement to the national guidance provided by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices."
The city's response to us also said that a resident had previously requested permission to paint the crosswalk in question, and the resident received the below "very clear" response from the city, included here in full:
Pavement markings in Colorado Springs follow the guidance set by the City’s Signage and Pavement Marking Guidelines. This guidance is a supplement to the national guidance provided by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. It is our standard practice to not
deviate from these guidelines in the striping of public roadways.
Specifically with regards to crosswalks, The City’s marking guidelines for crosswalks require 1 to 2 foot wide white crosswalk lines across the intersection. Since crosswalks are a potential point of conflict between pedestrians and road users, we require all crosswalks to be striped by
our guidelines to provide consistency for both pedestrians and road users. For pedestrians, the crosswalk provides guidance by defining and delineating paths on approaches to and within intersections. For the road uses, the crosswalk alerts users of a designated pedestrian crossing point across a roadway. It is for these reasons that we do not deviate from the City’s marking guidelines as we feel that a deviation from these guidelines has the potential to create a safety hazard for both pedestrians and road users.
Thank you for your request,
Public Works Administrative Support