WESTFIELD, NJ — It was dark when they started at 4 a.m. at the intersection of Quimby and Elm Streets Friday, but by the time they completed the project the sun reflected off the streetscape brighter than it ever has before.
Students from Westfield High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance and the school’s literary arts magazine, Folio, painted a rainbow crosswalk at the intersection in an effort coordinated with the town, Councilwoman Dawn Mackey, who helped to lead the painting, said. Students had been reaching out about the crosswalk project since the town raised its first Rainbow Pride Flag last year, Mackey said.
“Sometimes we overlook how small gestures have a tremendous meaning to people, who may not have felt welcome in our community,” Mackey said. “And the outpouring of support by students, parents and residents last year made this feel like it’s a good time to remind people that everyone’s welcome here in Westfield.”
The crosswalk is located in front of the restored Flatiron building at Quimby and Elm Streets, now home to the clothing store J. McLaughlin, and across the street from pastel painted buildings on Elm Street. The effort comes during Pride Month and is also nod to rainbows seen displayed around Westfield in recent months as a symbol of hope during the pandemic, Mackey said.
“We would like it to be a lasting tribute,” she added. “We’ll see how it goes and we’ll gauge the year and see how it holds up. I know the students are going to have a major fundraising effort at the high school this year so we can make sure that this is not paid for with tax dollars.”
Sherwin-Williams Westfield store donated paint for the project, while students brought their own paint rolls and pans, Mackey said. They chose the early morning time to paint to avoid disrupting traffic, she said.
Why Quimby Street?
A traffic study the Westfield had commissioned last year recommended the installation of artful crosswalks because they signal to drivers gathering places, Mackey said. Quimby Street is often closed to traffic and converted into a pedestrian plaza for activities in the summer.
“It looks joyful and beautiful and people were coming by saying how happy it made them to see that it’s painted,” Mackey said. “It might turn out at some point it might be moved to a different corner, but this was a great choice.”
Mayor Shelley Brindle had announced at a council meeting earlier this month that students would be painting the crosswalk.
On Friday, she took to Facebook to thank the students and organizers for their efforts.
“Thanks to the amazing WHS students from the [GSA] who woke up at 4 a.m. to paint rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Elm and Quimby,” Brindle said. “Led by Councilwoman Dawn Mackey and joined by some parents, Edison art teacher Helen Frees and Councilman David Contract. It was a productive and fun morning.”
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