BY ROBERT WILLIAMS
A Change.org petition to save the Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower is less than 200 signatures shy of reaching its goal of 10,000 signatures. The art installation is set to expire Sept. 8 unless the Board of Supervisors allow it to remain.
“On September 8th the rainbow-colored tower is set to be erased… forever,” the petition reads. “At a time when so much of what the LGBT community and its allies fought for is under attack, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors should save the Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower by designating it a permanent public art project.”
The Tower, located at the end of Brooks Ave on the recently-named Bill Rosendahl Memorial Beach, was transformed from its traditional baby blue color into a rainbow pride flag by local artist Patrick Marston and husband Michael Brunt to celebrate diversity and commemorate Venice Pride in June of this year.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents the 3rd District, including Venice Beach, is in favor of preserving the lifeguard tower but it will take a full vote of the five-member board.
A representative from Kuehl’s office said she plans to introduce a motion at the Board of Supervisors Sept. 5 meeting asking the Department of Beaches and Harbors to preserve the Tower as a memorial to Bill Rosendahl, who in 2005 became the first openly gay member of the Los Angeles City Council. Rosendahl, whose district included Venice Beach, died of cancer in 2016.
Venice Pride Founder and President Grant Turck believes the motion will pass and the stand will be preserved in its present form.
“I think it will be a slam dunk,” Turck told The Los Angeles Blade. “It has been incredibly well-received and thousands of people have visited it.”
Councilmember Mike Bonin, who now represents Rosendahl’s former district, is also in favor of preserving the stand.
“Hell, yes,” he said in an email to LA Weekly. “I enthusiastically support the grassroots campaign and county efforts to make the pride-colored lifeguard tower at Brooks Avenue in Venice permanent. The colorful lifeguard tower is an awesome celebration of inclusivity and LGBT pride, and I would love to see ‘the most Instagramable lifeguard tower in the world’ become a permanent part of our Venice neighborhood.”
Actor and ACT UP activist Colin Campbell told The Los Angeles Blade he created the petition after attending Venice Pride and being struck by the inclusiveness of the event and how many young people were attending.
“So much of Los Angeles LGBTQ services and social life are based in West Hollywood and the Eastside,” he said. “The Westside and Venice, in particular, lack cultural landmarks and anchors for the LGBTQ community.”
With the May closing of Roosterfish, the iconic gay bar that had been located on Abbot Kinney Blvd for 37 years, and with all the hate in the world today, Turck believes we have a responsibility to make others feel accepted, and symbols of diversity, freedom and inclusion must be infused back into the community, especially Venice Beach.
Turck and George Francisco, a local film producer, came up with the idea to paint the tower like a rainbow flag as a way marry two iconic symbols – the California lifeguard tower and the Pride flag, a symbol of LGBT freedom.
The idea was not initially well received. In May 2016, Turck reached out to the Department of Beaches and Harbors seeking permission to transform a tower into a rainbow flag a few weeks prior to the inaugural Venice Pride. He was refused.
In February 2017, he approached Beaches and Harbors again seeking permission. The Department did not reject the idea but would not grant permission. Instead, it asked the Los Angeles County Supervisors whether it would be permissible to temporarily transform a tower similar to the 2010 project Portraits of Hope, which covered 150 lifeguard towers in temporary panels painted in bright colors by Los Angeles-area children and adults, many of whom were coping with poverty, serious illness and disability. On March 8, 2017, Keuhl introduced a motion in support of the temporary installation and it passed.
The Tower was funded by Venice Pride and Dunn-Edwards Paints.