Juneau’s rainbow crosswalk, a project funded by fundraising, is just over a year old now on Aug. 20, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s rainbow crosswalk, a project funded by fundraising, is just over a year old now on Aug. 20, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Rainbow crosswalk shines on a year in

The publicly fundraised crosswalk marches on

Somewhere over the rainbow continues to be downtown Juneau, a year after the multicolored crosswalk came to Front Street.

“I think it’s been very successful. As with anything new, there was a bit of noise around it,” said Steve SueWing, facilitator for the rainbow crosswalk working group that helped quarterback the creation of an official rainbow crosswalk in Juneau. “I think the response was definitely mixed to begin with. It definitely would have been missed if it was a one-time thing.”

The project coalesced in 2018 after a series of guerrilla installations of rainbow crosswalks occurred around the city, SueWing said. After a request from the City Manager Rorie Watt went out to work with citizens to implement a permanent and sanctioned installation, SueWing and a group of six others got to work. The City and Borough of Juneau made it clear it would not fund the project but would carry out a sufficiently well-realized plan that they came to an agreement forged with residents.

[SEAGLA readies to kick off belated Pride Week]

“I think the group was smart enough to realize other jurisdictions and much bigger places had done this before,” SueWing said. “We reached out to a department in Seattle on how they did it.”

The crosswalks are a popular sign of support for the LGBTQ+ community in cities across the country. Planners of Juneau’s rainbow crosswalk have in the past noted that anyone in Southeast Alaska can appreciate a good rainbow, too.

The crosswalk’s crowd-sourced funding makes it atypical for a streets project.

“It was a group of people who got together and did some fundraising for it,” said Ed Foster, CBJ’s streets maintenance superintendent, in a phone interview. “I think it’s kind of unique.”

The group raised roughly $4,200, SueWing said, funding the initial installation and some of the next year’s maintenance. The donations were funneled through the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, which funds the continued maintenance of the installation. A healthy discount at the Valley Paint Center also helped realize the effort, SueWing said.

“It tends to wear off kind of quick, because it’s not traffic paint,” Foster said. “We couldn’t get those colors in traffic paint.”

Yearly maintenance helps to restore colors dulled by the abuse dished out on the Juneau’s roads, with the most recent round occurring in June. CBJ and its employees were extremely helpful in making the project happen, SueWing said.

“The push will be in the spring to raise money for the next installation. The installation and the funding for it is on a year-to-year basis,” SueWing said. “The goal is definitely permanent installation.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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