by Dixy Yong
PARK(ing) Day is an international event and annual collaboration to transform metered parking spaces into temporary public places. Launched in 2005, the initiative has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement with over 975 “PARKS” in 162 cities across six continents. The mission of this open-source project is to call for more public urban space and to demonstrate and debate how this space is created and allocated. The event has been adapted to confront a variety of social issues in different communities. On Friday, September 21, the PARK(ing) Day event in Memphis boasted public spaces filled not only with sod, trees, and flowers, but also other variations of the project such as a shelter complete with seating and a swing, green screen photography inside a camper trailer, and super-sized games of tennis and Jenga.
The UrbanArt Commission team, comprised of Siphne Sylve, Whitney Ranson and Christina Lanzl, along with interns Emily Balton and Dixy Yong, painted three benches on location. In a comment box, visitors were able to recommend locations for placement of the benches in a public place that would benefit from this amenity. The outdoor benches are intended for public places ranging from plazas to streetscape improvements. Adopt-A-Bench is a community service project to celebrate the organization’s 15 years of service to the community, as well as the 10-year anniversary of the City of Memphis Percent-for-Art Program.
Memphis City Beautiful showed the contrast of polluted and beautified public spaces, while Garner Picture Framing called for both people and dogs to assume the plank position in their “Planking Park”. Aside from being an absurd and innovative demonstration of urban transformation and public good will, this event challenged people to rethink the way that streets are used. In the modest urban area of the metered parking space, PARK(ing) Day reinforces the need for broad-based changes to urban infrastructure.