For the last decade, if you were to take a walk through Montreal’s Gay Village- the vibrant and strongly LGBTQ+ neighbourhood along St. Catherine Street- you would be privy to a brilliant icon of joy and pride hanging above you. A vast stringing of multicoloured resin balls, aligned in spectral order, an atomized pride flag joining you along your path. Since 2011, this installation by Quebecois landscape architect Claude Cormier has greeted locals and tourists alight. But after a lengthy stretch in the public eye, 18 Shades of Gay comes down in 2019- although you still may be able to see it in your own home.
With the new decade approaching, those in charge of Gay Village’s commercial development are opting for a new installation to be put in place. And in a creative way to both preserve the memory of 18 Shades of Gay and fund the new initiative, strings of the resin balls, each containing 54 of a single colour, are being sold to the public at $100 a pop. With the number of balls in the installation totalling 180 000 (six principal colours, three shades each, so 10 000 per shade), there’s a good chance that one could grab a string of their favourite colour before the project and offer are finished. And not only will these sales serve to fund the next installation- 10% of all sales will also be going to local LGBTQ+ initiatives.
It was Claude Cormier himself who proposed the end of the installation, citing the fact that the current set of resin balls would be reaching the end of their several year life cycle soon, and that the replacement procedure behind them was a bit more arduous than the public may think. This and the fact that the project had already run even longer than Cormier had ever hoped are reason enough to him to make room for a new artist’s work in the district. Cormier’s work can be seen in predominantly in Montreal and Toronto, some of his endeavours including the Love Park in Toronto and the renovation of Place de l’Horlage in Montreal’s Old Port; his firm is currently working on a memorial to those killed in the mass shooting at the Orlando nightclub Pulse.
An important factor in urban developments, especially those of purely aesthetic quality, is how they influence and are influenced by the existing communities that they are to reside in. There are more than a fair share of art installations in public spaces that make locals scratch their heads and guffaw at the sheer ill-fitting nature of their presence. So when a public piece such as Cormier’s is such a simple and perfect icon reflecting its’ neighbourhood’s values, especially considering how long it has endured, it’s a testament to the value that a city can gain from a well-executed artistic architectural concept. When 18 Shades of Gay comes down at the end of the year, the community spirit that it was indicative of will still be aloft- and just as with the spectrums of colour, humanity, and identity, the vast spectrum of art will have another vibrant hue to make its home in the Gay Village.