“Parking” took on a new meaning in parts of Minneapolis and St. Paul last Friday. The annual Park(ing) Day had groups of activists and artist hauling sod, grills and lawnchairs to parking spaces, where they were plugging the meter all day and hosting impromptu parks. At ten locations—two in St. Paul, eight in Minneapolis—these temporary green spaces were up and running, most through 3 p.m. Friday, but some even later.
Begun in 2005 by the San Francisco-based art collective Rebar to call attention to a part of that city without much green space, it’s now a national phenomenon, with parks being created in urban areas coast to coast. Minneapolis’ day, organized by the group Solutions Twin Cities,is all legit. Co-organizer Troy Gallas says he called the city of Minneapolis and they told him they were fine with it – as long as meters are plugged. Plus, he adds, St. Paul’s city hall is running a space this year.
Park(ing) Day 2009 organizers Troy Gallas and Colin Kloecker. Photo: Paul Schmelzer, MnIndy
Gallas’ says the event in most cities points out the lack of good green spaces, but here it’s more of a reminder of them and what they provide us. His parter at Solutions, Colin Kloecker, points out that much of downtown’s street culture happens in skyways and corporate plazas. “That’s not really public space. [Park(ing) Day] shows that it’s important to have a commons.”
Space 150 employees got their spot right outside work, in front of Minneapolis’ Moose & Sadie’s. Photo: Paul Schmelzer, MnIndy
A spot taken over by staff and students from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design uses a bed of sod to host picnic blankets, trays of food, yard games and camp chairs. MCAD staffer Megan Leafblad, in a sun hat, occasionally jumped up to offer Twizzler’s to passersby in cars.
Across the street, employees at the ad agency Space 150, having already fired up the grill, were offering brats to people at MCAD’s “park.”
While the event isn’t anti-car, Kloecker says, “It’s a people-centered activity, instead of a car-focused one. Not a lot of dialogue can happen if everyone is in their cars… unless it’s road rage.”
The view of two Park(ing) Day spots, shot from Space 150’s office. Photo: Paul Schmelzer, MnIndy
Heidi Keel, a brand planner at Space 150 agreed. “It’s a way of being a part of the larger community.” (In that spirit, they’re live-streaming the view of the scene outside their window so co-workers at their New York office can watch the fun.) And James Patrick, an instructor at the IBR music school down the block, seconds that.
“All day I try to be a crabby downtown jerk,” he jokes, “but today I find I just can’t do that.”
Various participants and passersby see the project as about either celebrating green space or injecting some wonder into the sometimes drab urban landscape. That could be perceived as political, Patrick says, but only slightly so.
Lobby furniture and a grill made up Space 150’s setup. Photo: Paul Schmelzer, MnIndy
“If you weren’t doing it in an area surrounded by capitalism it wouldn’t work as well,” he said. “My first thought seeing this was: Who’s paying them? I’m glad to hear the answer is nobody.”
One woman, walking her dog past the scene, wasn’t keen on the idea. “It seems kind of weird to take up the spaces that business owners need. And there is a park just two blocks away. I don’t get it.”
“One [parking-spot-turned-park] would’ve been enough,” she added.
Ryan Terrell, James Patrick and Jade Houdek. Photo: Paul Schmelzer, MnIndy
But Toni Christiano, who is a host for the Monte Carlo restaurant’s outdoor seating area, likes the injection of green. “I wish it would stay there.”
That was a common sentiment on 2nd Avenue. Ryan Terrell, an IBR student strumming a guitar at one of the parking spaces, says he wishes it’d happen every day. To that, another IBR student had a suggestion for a winter version of Park(ing) Day: Igloos.
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