Thinking Outside the Park(ing) Spot

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(U.S. Air Force Photo/ Staff Sgt. John Bainter)People are often encouraged to “think outside the box” when they want to stimulate creative thinking. A group of San Antonians took that a step further on today, Sept. 27, by thinking outside the parking spot at the city’s first observance of PARK(ing) Day.

Along a two-block stretch of Main Street between Pecan and Houston Streets downtown, nine parking spots featured more than just cars or trucks. There was art, play, education and laughter.

Meagan Wright, Special Projects Manager for the Center City Development Office, right, talks to visitors at PARK(ing) Day Sept. 27 in downtown San Antonio. (Photo by Annette Crawford)

Meagan Wright, Special Projects Manager for the Center City Development Office (right), talks to visitors at PARK(ing) Day Sept. 27 in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Annette Crawford.

This was the inaugural event for San Antonio, according to Meagan Wright, Special Projects Manager for the Center City Development Office. PARK(ing) Day began in San Francisco in 2005 and has spread to cities worldwide. While San Antonio’s first event was relatively small, it has the potential to grow – Philadelphia’s streets see the transformation of more than 45 downtown parking spots into “parkettes.”

“We hope that people use this event to think about space in the downtown area in a different way,” Wright said. “Yes, parking is an important component of downtown, but we want to think differently about how we utilize the space and make sure it’s maximized since land downtown is at a premium.”

MPO and the Office of Sustainability sponsored a spot at PARK(ing) Day Sept. 27 titled “Twelve to One.” The intent was to show that 12 bicycles could fit in the same space as one vehicle. (Photo by Annette Crawford)

MPO and the Office of Sustainability sponsored a spot at PARK(ing) Day Sept. 27 titled “Twelve to One.” The intent was to show that 12 bicycles could fit in the same space as one vehicle. Photo by Annette Crawford.

The exhibitors took that advice to heart and made the most out of their spots. Mary Compton and Miki Rubio from the Children’s Museum offered an “Imagination Playground,” featuring a lesson in science and an assortment of giant building blocks.

“We’re using dry ice bubbles to teach kids about states of matter,” said Rubio, the museum’s Special Events Coordinator.

Mary Compton, left, and Miki Rubio await visitors at the San Antonio Children’s Museum spot at PARK(ing) Day. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Mary Compton, left, and Miki Rubio await visitors at the San Antonio Children’s Museum spot at PARK(ing) Day. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Compton, the director of Group Sales and Marketing, said the building blocks were part of one of the museum’s latest exhibits.

“It’s a great way for parents and kids to engage with one another and do team building,” she said.

At the SA2020 spot, Molly Cox, chief of engagement, had an enthusiastic team stopping passers-by, encouraging them to pledge a goal for the betterment of San Antonio. In return, they received a packet of wildflower seeds.

A member of the SA2020 team hangs packets of wildflower seeds at the group’s spot on PARK(ing) Day in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Annette Crawford.

A member of the SA2020 team hangs packets of wildflower seeds at the group’s spot on PARK(ing) Day in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Annette Crawford.

“The idea is to watch the flowers grow as our city grows,” Cox said. She added that PARK(ing) Day was a perfect complement for her group’s goals.

“We’re all about downtown development, neighborhoods and environmental sustainability, and we’re supporting all three of them right here,” Cox said.

Michelle Garrigan, director of special projects at the Southwest School of Art, said their spot offered a “surrealistic social” setting for the interactive projects.

“When we discussed what we were going to do here today, we knew we wanted something participatory and interactive,” Garrigan said. “It evolved over a couple of meetings.”

Garrigan’s team offered to take participants’ photos wearing a top hat and holding a bright green apple, and encouraged them to upload the photo to Instagram. They also had a colorful assortment of markers where artists of all ages could draw their portion of what was known as the “exquisite corpse.”

Michelle Garrigan takes a photo of a visitor to the Southwest School of Art booth. Visitors could have their photo taken with their phones while wearing the props provided by the school. They were then encouraged to upload their photos to Instagram. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Michelle Garrigan takes a photo of a visitor to the Southwest School of Art booth/parking spot. Visitors could have their photo taken with their phones while wearing the props provided by the school. They were then encouraged to upload their photos to Instagram. Photo by Annette Crawford.

One of those artists was Ed, a 50-something-year-old who lives in the nearby Robert E. Lee Apartments on Travis St. He laughed as he drew the brightly colored clawed feet of the corpse.

“This is more fun than playing with my cat,” he said, “but don’t tell her that.”

Ed said the drawing was therapeutic.

“It took me back to being a kid,” he said. He paused and took a deep breath.

“I’m disabled. I had a really rough doctor’s appointment earlier this week and I gotta be honest, I was kinda in the blues before I came down here,” Ed said. “This was just perfect. I wish the city could reach out to people like me more often. We don’t have enough events like this, places we can play. Things like this are worth more than money.”

Ed, a resident of the Robert E. Lee Apartments, draws his portion of the “exquisite corpse” at the Southwest School of Art spot during PARK(ing) Day. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Ed, a resident of the Robert E. Lee Apartments, draws his portion of the “exquisite corpse” at the Southwest School of Art spot during PARK(ing) Day. Photo by Annette Crawford.

In addition to the parking spots, food trucks were parked at the Little Patch Garden at Salinas and Main, and the group Grooveline played music to the lunchtime crowd. Other exhibitors included the San Antonio-Bexar County MPO, the Office of Sustainability,Downtown Alliance and Centro San Antonio, artist Mark Gelatt, artist Rex Hausmann,Artpace, and Yelp San Antonio.

The City of San Antonio PARK(ing) Day was a joint venture with the Center City Development Office and Downtown Alliance/Centro Partnership. While the main intent was education, the event also offered the spirit of competition. Three judges – District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, Assistant City Manager Ed Belmares and Zachary Marr from Alamo Music Center judged the parking spots and recognized the three top spots.

Molly Cox, right, and members of her team celebrate SA2020’s first place win at PARK(ing) Day Sept. 27. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Molly Cox, right, and members of her team celebrate SA2020’s first place win at PARK(ing) Day Sept. 27 and take home the golden parking meter. Photo by Annette Crawford.

Third place went to Artpace, second to artist Mark Gelatt and the coveted golden parking meter trophy for first place went to SA2020.

“Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis,” states the event’s official website. ”The PARK(ing) project was created to explore the range of possible activities for this short-term lease, and to provoke a critical examination of the values that generate the form of urban public space.”

 

Annette Crawford is a public affairs officer at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. She is also the house photographer for the Majestic Theatre and Sam’s Burger Joint & Music Hall. You can read her music and travel blog at www.thegroovygringa.com or follow her on Facebook and on Twitter @thegroovygringa.

 

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  1. Sherry Disdier

    I think this is a darling idea. I hope it spreads all over downtown. I especially liked how it lifted the spirits of Ed, a downtown resident. May I suggest that La Villita be added to the participants. We’re artists. We certainly could ce up with some creative ideas for utilizing some spaces…and we are the original “downtown” of all of downtown. We even have 4 parking meter spaces on Nueva St. Let us join the fun and collaborate.

  2. Jerry Geyer

    Hi. Great article. However, the PARK(ing) event was actually inaugurated in SA on Grayson St, next to the Pearl, in 2010 (I think) and it was held there for at least two years. It was sponsored by the Architecture Foundation, and Debbie Hutcheson of the Foundation started it (she also started the very popular and visible PechCucha event). The first year we had Casa Navarro, VIA, Tobin Hill Assn, and I think three other participants in PARK(ing). I don’t know who was there the second year besides Casa Navarro. It rained like mad the Friday we set up the first year and we thought it would be a disaster. But Saturday was great and lots of people came to visit while they were at the Pearl Farmers Market. A great event, that should gain a greater following each year. Jerry Geyer


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