The underground art show only Vancouver’s maintenance workers will see

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When maintenance workers are climbing through Nanaimo Street’s sewer lines in the future, they’ll get to see something most Vancouverites won’t.

A secret underground art show. Well, it’s not so much a secret but it won’t be accessible to the general public.

Six sewer pipes were used as canvases for whatever fun, creative works of art popped into residents’ minds. Photo: City of Vancouver

Up to 180 residents of all ages came together July 13 for the City of Vancouver’s Painting on the Sewer Lines day, a family-friendly event that invited residents to add their own splash of colour to the Nanaimo Street Upgrades.

Eventually, these colourful pipes will be installed as a part of the upgrades to critical sewer infrastructure along Nanaimo Street, between McGill Street and 4th Avenue.

You may be thinking why the City decided to ask residents to paint sewer pipes very few people will get to see…

Six sewer pipes were used as canvases for whatever fun, creative works of art popped into residents’ minds. Photo: City of Vancouver
Six sewer pipes were used as canvases for whatever fun, creative works of art popped into residents’ minds. Photo: City of Vancouver

It was all about engaging residents in learning about the essential engineering infrastructure that plays a large and often unseen role in our everyday lives.

Engineering Artist-in-Residence Germaine Koh, who helped plan the event and established its concept, was proud of the event’s ability to bring residents young and old into the process of infrastructure upgrades.

“It was a fun street party that brought the neighbourhood together, but it was also meant as an entry point for residents to better understand their city,” she said.

Six sewer pipes were used as canvases for whatever fun, creative works of art popped into residents’ minds. Photo: City of Vancouver

“To me, the end product was less important than bringing the local community together to build memories about their neighbourhood — but many of the residents were also happy to hear that the maintenance workers climbing through these pipes would see their painting.

“I hope we’ve given them (residents) a reason to think about and feel connected to the infrastructure beneath their feet.”