How Agency Skills Helped Guide A Pride Month Project

Travis Myers - Associate Creative Director
June 07, 2024
Woman on Bench

At a time when the simple act of flying the rainbow flag is being banned across North America and there has been a sharp uptick in countries around the world criminalizing 2SLGBTQIA+ people, it’s important to be able to look back on queer history in Canada and cherish the work that’s been done to secure our freedoms while continuing to work towards a more equitable society. The best way to argue that we deserve a place in the present is to understand that we’ve always been here, and always will be.

This year for Pride, I wanted to honour the site of Canada’s first Pride on Toronto Island back in 1971, which also happens to be the oldest surviving queer space in Canada. The goal: to create a permanent art installation of a 600 metre rainbow along the road where those brave trailblazers walked so we could run.

Called “The Long Walk To Equality” the purpose of the installation is to prompt reflective thinking and honour for the past as people move along the road now redone in the style of the Progress Pride flag. It would be the longest rainbow of its kind in the world, and one of the largest outdoor painting projects ever undertaken by surface area in North America.

No small feat. To do so would require every skill I’ve ever learned across a decade of creative work. Here are the four major takeaways that every creatively inclined person should keep in mind for their projects at work and beyond.

1. Find good partners

I partnered with Pride Toronto as a non-profit trustee to assist with fundraising efforts, bringing the loop from that first Pride in 1971 to the present day.We connected with tenacious individuals and businesses that have previously supported the community through Pride month messaging, and put together an Avengers level team of donors from a variety of different sectors to put together the funds needed to accomplish it.

The lesson here: Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone (or send off a LinkedIn message) to get things moving.

2. Learn as you go

Just like every project at work, I got to learn so much through the process in order to reframe that information and apply it in new ways. Here, I was able to learn about all different types of paint and what’s suitable for ecological safety, and what type of application processes could make the rainbow even more vibrant (or if it was even possible).

Using learnings from City of Toronto community consultation, the project was able to be made even better by gaining support and momentum along the way. The insights found during the outreach stage weren’t unlike the findings that strategists gather to strengthen creative ideas.

3. Expect the unexpected

As we’ve all experienced with deadlines and deliverables looming, there were a few bumps on the road (no pun intended). While last minute changes from clients on work projects can feel insurmountable, we generally go with the flow and work with what we can — which was the best attitude to have when the rainbow road ran out of paint and got delayed by weather.

During the first installation day, we realized that there simply still wasn’t enough available paint in Toronto to get it all done on time. We powered ahead, but a torrential downpour prevented additional paint supplies from making it to the island. The finishing touches were rescheduled and we moved ahead with the existing launch date to get the important message out before Pride month.

For those who braved the storm, there was a feeling of closeness crowded under umbrellas. Along with the media we’d invited, the Deputy Mayor along with Mayor Olivia Chow made it out for the ribbon cutting, and the Mayor said it best: “You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”


4. Enjoy it while you can

And, as soon as the ribbon was cut on the installation, something amazing happened. The skies cleared up and the sun came out. More and more people who had been storm-stayed on the mainland trickled in to walk along the road.

There was a feeling of joy in the air, and the important message about protecting queer history was out in the world. While that post-launch glow can dissipate pretty fast when it’s time to tie up loose, it’s important to soak it in while it’s there.

It’s my hope that with this project, people will walk along it and feel others walking with them — the ones who fought for their rights in 1971, the ones who planted the seeds of the queer community a century ago, and the ones who are yet to come. For the people right now who are in those places where they aren’t allowed to be themselves or fly a rainbow flag, I hope this road can be something to look forward to.

I can’t wait to keep walking with them in search of a better tomorrow.

About the Author:

Travis Myers is an Associate Creative Director at Citizen by day and advocate for the preservation and celebration of queer history by night.