Remember when swinging twenty feet above the ground on a swingset was the ultimate accomplishment in life? Then you grew up and all the sudden things were no fun. Playgrounds disappeared from your lexicon. Work became the consumer of your play. The cracks of sidewalks weren’t cliffs to jump over and escape scary monsters, but rather, a mover of people from Point A to B. There’s a need to make our cities playful again and Hunter Franks' League of Creative Interventionists is on the forefront of that mission. GOOD joined him, urban planner Patrick McDonnell and Women.Design.Build founder Christina Mirando on a Google Hangout about play and here were our key takeaways.
Create a Space for Open Reflection and Conversation
If you’re working at a desk all day or you don’t walk around your city, chances are your brain won’t be in a playful mode. With easy interventions like Franks’ Postcard Project, Mirando’s collaborative clipboard wall for co-working space Center61, or McDonnell’s pinboards on Pinterest, there are collaborative ways to interact with your community, using just paper or a computer, a wall, and your thoughts.
Unlearn What You’ve Learned
McDonnell went to school for urban planning and quickly realized his ideas were more outside-the-box than what was required in city planning jobs. With his swing project or his cardboard animal picnic, he constructed physical things for community members to engage with, “unlearning” the strict rules of City Hall and igniting their imaginations. Franks also created a space for learning in unconventional ways called freespace, a vacant building in San Francisco that he turned into a community hub where artists can get together to design, hold talks, and garden. That being said, in this talk, we emphasized how important it was to be conscious of what our neighborhoods’ needs are. So, rather than just doing something cool just to do it, Mirando recommends using resources like HCD Connect or Americans for the Arts to understand what types of projects would be needed in certain communities.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone and Get in Trouble
Always ask why things are the way they are in your city. Then, play the opposite game and see what it would be like to change it up. Insert spontaneity into your play by experimenting and traveling, and doing one thing everyday that scares you. Also, get inspired from an actual kid. After all, they’re the ones that have the least inhibitions about play.
Play Can Be Impactful
If you’re documenting your play with videos or photos, tweets or blogs, you’re inspiring people who want to get involved. Do it regularly. Connect with people compassionately over silly updates about playful things you’re doing, like sharing a photo of what makes you happy with the 100 Happy Days project. You can also participate in crowdsourced projects that bring play opportunities to youth, like Sports Matter, Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation's program to bring uniforms and equipment to teams in need (submit a team for consideration here). Or, take initiative by starting your own chapter of the League of Creative Interventionists. Bring a fun play activity to your own city.
After getting fantastic questions from people watching the talk, we brainstormed ideas for the next League of Creative Interventionists event. Mirando came up with the idea of building an oversized Jenga game with the community in a park; McDonnell came up with the idea to install basketball hoops around his city; and Franks currently has the idea to create a giant puzzle for everyone to put together. If you have ideas to make your community more playful, share them! Tell us how you’d brainstorm a creative play intervention for your city.