Beth Threlfall painted tiger and zebra stripes on poles near an intersection at Bay and Chambers Streets, near George Jay Elementary, to warn drivers about a crosswalk used frequently by young students as they travel to school and back. File contributed/ John Threlfall Beth Threlfall painted tiger and zebra stripes on poles near an intersection at Bay and Chambers Streets, near George Jay Elementary, to warn drivers about a crosswalk used frequently by young students as they travel to school and back. BC Hydro is no longer allowing poles to be painted. (Photo Courtesy of John Threlfall)

Fernwood’s painted poles no more

BC Hydro shuts down decade-old public art initiative after complaints, safety concerns

From sunflowers and birds to Pokemon and geometric shapes, Fernwood’s art-covered poles are a hallmark of the artsy Victoria nook. But a new decision from BC Hydro is putting an end to the resident-created instalments.

A decade ago the hydro pole art phenomena swept the little community, with dozens beautifying otherwise unnoticeable urban necessities. BC Hydro was never directly involved in the community programs that encouraged pole painting, but it did give permission to those who asked.

READ ALSO: Pole painting sweeps Fernwood

As the art pole movement spread – picking up traction on Gabriola Island, in Nanaimo and other up-Island communities – it became clear that not everyone saw the painted poles as “beautification.”

“We had people supportive of it and people who were not supportive of it,” said Ted Olynyk, community relations manager for BC Hydro. “They didn’t like the art [because] they now saw the pole whereas before they didn’t see the pole.”

Complaints came in – but not just from residents. Hydro workers also had concerns about the paint degrading the integrity of the structure or hiding signs of damage.

Olynyk said the paint can retain moisture and disguise wear and tear. “From an operational and safety perspective, it can degrade the life of the pole,” he said.

Another concern was the quality of art. Not all of it was necessarily considered sightly, and even the quality pieces began to fade over time, the paint changing colour and settling into the grooves of the western red cedar. And liability is a consideration too – with poles typically located next to roads, Olynyk said artists could be at risk of being hit.

READ ALSO: Local artists dress up bus shelters across Victoria

BC Hydro won’t be coming into communities and destroying the artwork, but if residents complain, the art will be considered graffiti and painted over. Future requests to paint BC Hydro poles will be denied.

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich roads doused in more than 300 tonnes of salt during snowstorm

Crews cleared roads around the clock during the mid-January storm

Three Saanich councillors ask for $2-M investment into District road safety

‘I don’t want roads to be safer in 30 years, I want them safer now,’ says Coun. Ned Taylor

Hydro pole fire closes portion of Metchosin Road in Colwood

Motorists are advised to avoid the area of Metchosin Road near Royal Bay

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

‘We thought it was an earthquake,’ homeowners okay after tree falls

Mature tree falls on roof of Victoria Avenue house

VIDEO: The Victoria byelection leads a selection of today’s news stories

A selection of Greater Victoria top stories for Jan. 17

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

One last blast of winter tonight for parts of the Island before temperatures on the rise

A snowfall warning is in effect Friday including east Vancouver Island.

POLL: Has the recent snow had an impact on your daily life?

Old Man Winter had Greater Victoria in his icy grip this week.… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

Most Read