What may be the world’s purest movement – thousands of rainbows, drawn by hand and hung in windows for children and adults alike to seek out on their daily walks – is the subject of a video released yesterday to celebrate the incredible surge in Google My Maps usage by communities sharing information on coronavirus-related resources, such as testing sites and food banks, a spokesperson for Google informed us.
While people have been putting up hand-drawn rainbows for a while now, Brooklyn mom Marisa Migdal was the one who kicked things off locally. Around mid-March, Migdal posted in the BoCoCa (Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens) Moms group on Facebook that her kids were struggling with not being able to go to the park, and how could she keep her kids busy – without them touching anything?
Another member suggested that she put up drawings of rainbows for other kids to spot, like others were doing in places like Italy. Migdal was so into the idea that she immediately made a follow-up post announcing that she and her kids would be painting a rainbow to hang in their first floor window, and suggesting that others do the same thing so others in the community can go on “rainbow hunts.” A few days later, another resident posted in the ‘Buy Nothing’ group for residents of BoCoCa, Gowanus, and Columbia Street Waterfront to ask if anyone could help create a map to track all the rainbows. Another Brooklyn resident, and member of the group, Anna Grotzky, stepped up, soon creating what is called the Rainbow Connection Map.
Creating the map itself was fairly straightforward, Grotzky said, but what made things tricky was how quickly the idea caught on. Grotzky had created a Google sheet for people with rainbows in their windows to add their addresses so she could upload them to the map, but the list grew so rapidly – she mapped one or two hundred rainbows in the first couple of days after taking on the project, she estimated – that she eventually decided to make the map public. Now, she said, people can add their own pins, making her work considerably easier.
One day, while Grotzky was doing routine admin work on the map, she noticed something new: one of the map’s users had found a way to turn their pin into a rainbow. “I was just like ‘oh my god, that’s great!” she said. “So I decided to make that everybody’s pin.”
The movement has already spread worldwide: there are now over 3,500 rainbow pins mapped as of yesterday, Grotzky said.
In parts of Brooklyn, like the area consisting of Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, and Columbia Street Waterfront, the pins are packed so tightly together that you’d need to zoom all the way in to street level to even see an individual rainbow. Zoom out a bit, and rainbows pepper New York City in its entirety; further still, and they cascade across the entire United States. Zoom out until the entire world is in view on the map, and you’ll find rainbows on almost every continent, including in Bangalore; in Saudi Arabia; and in Moscow.
Rainbows give kids something new and exciting to do, Grotzky said. “It’s an art project for a reason, and for a purpose.” She’s even seen people without kids posting rainbows in their windows, she said.
The Google video follows Brooklyn mom Eef Prince-Verhagen as she and her young daughter search for rainbows in their neighborhood. “I read this post about hanging rainbows in front of our windows for the kids to have something to do while you’re walking outside,” Prince-Verhagen said. “Honestly, I was like, ‘oh my god, this is going to be such a lifesaver.’” Going for a simple walk outside had become a huge source of stress due to the pandemic for Prince-Verhagen. Looking for rainbows gave her and her daughter a sense of routine.
“A rainbow is magical to people – you don’t get to see one every day,” Grotzky said. “So now, being able to go out and see them every day gives everybody a little sense of hope, a little sense of connection – a little sense of magic.”