by Martha Sadler
The six-color rainbow flag that has symbolized the gay pride movement since 1979 is flying high on State Street for the first time this week to commemorate Gay and Lesbian Heritage Month. The bent rainbow pattern was designed by Paul Mills — the late art director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art — who also created the first city flag to fly on the downtown flagstaffs more than 25 years ago. The gay-friendly banners are getting their first turn on the flagstaffs thanks to the efforts of Gay Santa Barbara (GSB) Executive Director Charles Rice, who has agitated the city for years to include GSB in the State Street flag program. Last year, the city relinquished the program’s reins to the Downtown Organization (DO), with instructions to accommodate the program’s waiting list. Given a choice, the two dozen or so groups that have traditionally displayed their flags each year — United Way, Ensemble Theatre, and the Rape Crisis Center, to name a few — all preferred to reduce the number of days their flags fly annually rather than rotate off the list. GSB is one of eight nonprofits — including the Santa Barbara Symphony, the Alzheimer’s Association, and Heal the Ocean — to join this year’s mix, with more groups continuing to sign up, according to DO President Marshall Rose. The huge demand leaves the DO with the challenge of devising a calendar that allows the greatest number of groups to participate, while making it worthwhile for organizations to dish out the $10,000 it costs to produce the flags.