Project Rainbow: Bringing Unity to Utah
Activism, Outreach and Education
[email protected] | projectrainbowutah.org
As you walk down the street, you can’t help but notice an array of colors catching your eye, billowing in the wind. Upon closer inspection, you come to realize that it’s not a random occurrence but a beautiful Pride flag placed in the grass—a wonderful reminder of support and love for Utah’s LGBTQ+ community in flag form. Project Rainbow, an organization set out to bring community to Utah, is responsible for rainbows springing up in Utah.
“You know, Pride always falls after Memorial Day, when the boy scouts put out the American flags, and it just kind of clicked in my mind, ‘Oh. That would be a kind of cute, gay version of the Boy Scouts to celebrate Pride Week,’”
Lucas Horns, Founder of Project Rainbow, got the idea for the organization during Pride Week a few years ago. “I had seen one street that had three or four rainbow flags in a row. You know, Pride always falls after Memorial Day, when the boy scouts put out the American flags, and it just kind of clicked in my mind, ‘Oh. That would be a kind of cute, gay version of the Boy Scouts to celebrate Pride Week,’” says Horns. “That following year, I just sat down with a friend, who at the time was on the board of the Pride Center, and was like, ‘I think we should do this as a fundraiser,’ and so we did.”
From this cheeky idea came Project Rainbow, an organization that stakes Pride flags around Utah neighborhoods each summer. You can sign up through their official website and donate 15 dollars. In return, donors get a rainbow flag placed in front of their home on June 5 to celebrate the start of Pride month.
Not only are these donations helping celebrate Pride, they also contribute to a community fund. “For the first two years, we would raise funds for specific organizations depending on where we were sticking the flags. For example, the rainbow flags we staked in Salt Lake in June would go to Utah Pride Center, the rainbow flags we staked for Southern Utah Pride would go to Pride of Southern Utah. We did Trans flags for Trans Day Remembrance, and those went to Transgender Education Advocates,” says Horns. “But you know, we were starting to raise more and more money and we realized, we kind of have this unique opportunity to be a fundraising source for organizations that are definitely doing good work but don’t have a way to fundraise.”
Horns realized that Utah Pride Center was receiving funds from the yearly Pride Festival—which in June 2019 raised around $1,000,000—and wanted to focus on smaller groups and organizations that needed funding. “With the money we raised last year we started the Project Rainbow Community Fund, so anyone in the community can apply for a grant ranging from $100 to $7,000, and it just has to be for a project or an event that promotes LGBTQ visibility … anywhere in Utah,” says Horns, “So, we rewarded 21 different groups and organizations … $55,000 in grants.”
“With the money we raised last year we started the Project Rainbow Community Fund, so anyone in the community can apply for a grant ranging from $100 to $7,000, and it just has to be for a project or an event that promotes LGBTQ visibility … anywhere in Utah.”
Groups who received grants ranged from a leader in a GSA group wanting to buy the kids books by queer authors to one woman who wanted queer literature in her little free library outside of her home and for the library box to be painted with rainbows—just a few examples of the impact the grants have had in the community. Nonetheless, not only are the grants causing a positive impact, so are the flags.
Horns recounts experiences where people felt like they were the only queer person in Provo until a neighbor placed a Pride flag in their yard, which has led to newly formed friendships. “The coolest part of this project for me is that it’s really fostering a sense of community among people in places I think that community didn’t really exist before,” says Horns. “There are just a lot of queer people in Utah, but you really don’t know where anyone is until they stick a big rainbow flag in their front yard.”
A lot of people in Utah know exactly what Horns means, which explains why the organization has had a significant amount of growth and impact. “Project Rainbow has definitely grown. For the June  campaign we staked out 500 flags, and I think we were working with maybe 20 volunteers. Last year we staked about 3,000 flags, and had over 100 volunteers staking those,” says Horns, “In three years it grew pretty significantly. This year we are aiming to have 5,000 flags and we are right on track for that—we are going to have to cut off registration early because we are going to reach that soon, and we have about 400 volunteers now in our database.”
“The coolest part of this project for me is that it’s really fostering a sense of community among people in places I think that community didn’t really exist before.”
Even with flags on his mind, Project Rainbow has other future projects in the works. “Each year we put on a free clothing boutique called Fashion Fluid,” says Horns. “The first time it was just an incredible experience because the Gateway donated a space and [it] really felt like a retail store for people who don’t have the means to shop in a traditional store. Or, for a lot of queer people, going into a normal clothing store is kind of intimidating because there are gendered sections of the store … we have a very gender fluid environment and so it’s really cool, but our long term goal is to have that as a permanent store opened year round.”