On a misty grey summer morning, we hotfooted by bike to see a brand-new road painting that memorializes a bygone salmon stream that ran through the Mount Pleasant Vancouver neighbourhood. That’s right –a somewhat bumpy road surface was graced overnight with a blue-green swirly art stream of salmon, frogs, trees and sea life in a quiet residential area. The road community art work was the St. George Rainway.
We arrived there at the right time –colours were still pure, bright and unblemished from the previous evening’s painting party. Road traffic was quiet since rush hour peak activity if such a street experienced it, had died down.
Well, it’s doubtful that this artwork was conceived so quickly. There was public consultation with the community, some artists created and presented the design, the False Creek Watershed Society helped promote the public painting party evening
weeks in advance, City placed some temporary traffic barriers and more volunteers were secured to paint and complete the 50 metre long painting within 5 hours on June 28, 2012.
It is remarkable what can be achieved by throwing down a well-designed painting on public road space if there is artistic vision, orchestrated effort of enthusiastic volunteers and some leadership.
St. George Street runs alongside a public school that has its fence already decorated with children’s salmon placard art – a common iconic sight at various Vancouver
elementary public schools. The painted stream or “rainway” starts from a garden festooned traffic calming circle to nearly the end of the first block.
Painting imagery depicts seven stages of salmon, frogs, flora and fauna with multiple word translations of “water”.
While we were there, a few cyclists cruised along and various drivers drove hesitantly down the rainway. While it might have been the sight of us, 2 cyclists wandering around with their cameras , it was obvious some drivers were seeing the road painting for the first time also. Some cars inched slowly down the side of the road, not down the centre of the
road. Either a driver wanted to see more of the painting or allow us to continue photo-shooting. We weren’t sure. But at least, the fanciful stream painting, slowed down the drivers for a short residential street.
Rainway Painting Captures a Fleeting Image, Memory
The St. George Rainway is a touchstone that nudges pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to look, ponder, ask questions (What is this painting all about?) and contemplate the winding story of a lost stream and sea life prior to urbanization. We should welcome more inspiring permanent motifs that pull us outside and remind us what has been lost and what needs to be cherished for the future.
This painting too, shall fade in brilliance after the beating of rain, traffic, sunlight and snow. Catch and enjoy its ephemeral dream memory while you can.
Mount Pleasant Community Association. Mount Pleasant Watershed Society Blog.
Chong, Jean. Mosaic Park: A Creative Stream of Community Consciousness and Dreams. In Cycle Write Blog, Aug. 24, 2010. For something a bit different: another public outdoor art installation with over 200 different mosaic designs that depicts a community’s wish for a water stream in their neighbourhood park.