Rainbow sidewalks art installation approved on temporary basis, artist protested

By David Pendered

The artist protested, but the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow the rainbow flag to be painted on the road as crosswalks near Piedmont Park on a temporary basis, not a permanent one.

Robert Sepulveda Jr.

Robert Sepulveda Jr.

Atlanta artist Robert Sepulveda Jr. spoke at the meeting. He told the council that the original plan was for his artwork, The Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks, to be a permanent installation at the corner of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue.

“The original legislation said, ‘in perpetuity,’” Sepulveda said. “We want this to be a permanent installation.”

Sepulveda created a plan to paint right the crosswalks with rainbow strips of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Two bands are to be 10 feet wide, and two bands are to be 11 feet wide, according to the legislation.

The original legislation was changed to allow the artwork for about a week before and after the Atlanta Pride Festival. Sepulveda said neither he nor other advocates were notified of the change.

The legislation sets the time frame for the installation from about Oct. 3 through about Oct. 16. The Atlanta Pride Festival is scheduled Oct. 10 and Oct. 11.

Rainbow crosswalks

This rendering shows the Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks looking east toward Piedmont Park. File/Credit: Facebook.com

Sepulveda addressed one of the issues that Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza cited in a letter he sent Sepulveda. The letter notified Sepulveda that the city had determined its need to establish a better policy regarding such projects.

One such concern is that other groups may seek to paint the city’s street with emblems that some could find offensive or inflammatory.

“If the public wants to do an art installation of their own, they can write the proposal and send it to the city, as we did,” Sepulveda said.

The Atlanta Rainbow Crosswalks project’s Facebook page attributes this letter to Mendoza:

  • “We have multiple requests for artwork on city streets and need to work on a more permanent policy to manage in terms of public safety in the future at which time dpw [sic] will be happy to work with you on a permanent facility for this location.”

The council voted without comment to allow the artwork to be installed on a temporary basis. The legislation was on the council’s consent agenda, which is a section that allows the council to approve multiple actions with a single vote.

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell asked the council repeatedly if there were any items members wanted to pull from the consent agenda. This procedure allows legislation to be discussed by the full council and possibly returned to a committee for further consideration.

Councilmembers pulled a few items off the consent agenda, but none was the rainbow crosswalks paper.

Atlanta Councilmember Alex Wan voted in favor of the legislation. He had been named by the project’s website as one of the city officials who should receive requests to make the installation permanent.

Wan posted a comment on the project’s Facebook page after Sepulveda spoke:

  • “Thank you Robert Sepulveda for coming to council meeting today to discuss the rainbow crosswalks. Please know we are continuing to explore options that could make an installation permanent at that intersection, but the first priority is to get the project done before Pride.”

Atlanta Councilmember Kwanza Hall, who sponsored the legislation, had an excused absence from the meeting and did not cast a vote. His airplane was late returning Atlanta.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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