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Manhole covers cast opportunity for 'beauty'

A manhole cover in Vancouver designed in 2004 by mother-daughter artist team Susan A. Point and Kelly Cannell. Richmond is preparing a call for artists to create similarly artistic designs on Lulu Island streets. - StacieBee photo via Flickr
A manhole cover in Vancouver designed in 2004 by mother-daughter artist team Susan A. Point and Kelly Cannell. Richmond is preparing a call for artists to create similarly artistic designs on Lulu Island streets.
— image credit: StacieBee photo via Flickr

They dot roads and sidewalks across the city, known for a plain grid pattern only peg solitaire players would appreciate.

Now Richmond is planning to turn some of those manhole covers into art.

"They're all over the place, we see them all the time. They're not exactly the prettiest looking things," said Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt. "They're necessary, but you can bring a little bit of beauty into that also."

Richmond has an estimated 50,000 manhole covers, and each year 150 are replaced. City council has now approved a modest project to make those replacement covers a tad more interesting.

Plans are afoot at city hall to issue a call to Metro Vancouver artists to submit their designs. The contest is not limited to professionals. Two designs will be selected—one for storm water covers, one for sewer covers.

Entries from children 12 and under will also be welcomed. Two young winners will be recognized for their designs, but only the adult artists' designs will be cast.

Fabricator Westview Sales Ltd. will provide the moulds for the new designs at no extra cost. The project carries a budget of $16,000, which includes two $2,000 prizes for winning designs.

The new designs are expected to eventually make their way to the streets of City Centre and other neighbourhood centres, with the exception of Steveston. Manhole covers unique to the fishing village are part of a planned future project.

The program mirrors public art programs elsewhere, including Vancouver, which already boasts some artistic utility covers.

In a report, Richmond city engineer Lloyd Bie and arts planner Eric Fiss called the project a way of "integrating the arts into everyday life and making art accessible to the public."

The competition will continue through to October 2014. A panel will recommend winners to council early next year.

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