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    Downtown parking spaces to morph into parks

    Dana Porter - The Daily Helmsman -

    One of Downtown’s busiest streets will have its parking spaces turned into installations Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    Park(ing) Day is an international event where artists transform a parking meter space into a creative idea. The event, which spans six continents, will create about 975 “parks” in 162 cities in 35 countries.

    Sixteen teams of artists from Memphis nonprofit art groups, individuals and businesses will participate in the event that will be along Peabody Place between Front and Second Street.

    The Park(ing) idea began in San Francisco, Calif., in 2005 by Rebar, an art and design studio that leased a metered parking spot and transformed the wide area of public space into a temporary public park.

    This is the second time the event has been hosted in Memphis. It’s free and open to the public.

    Catherine Blackwell Peña, co-producer of Memphis’ Park(ing) Day and teacher at Memphis College of Art, said it took several years to implement because she had to get permission from the City of Memphis.

    Three staff artists from UrbanArt Commission will paint three wooden benches for their “park” space. Christina Lanzl, executive director, said the finished benches will be displayed on the group’s website in hopes that someone will adopt a bench.

    “Park(ing) Day is non-commercial, and with our park we are making beautiful benches for residents in Memphis,” Lanzl said.

    Lanzl said in addition to providing painted benches as a gift to the city, the project is in honor of UAC’s 15-year anniversary and the 10-year anniversary of the city’s Percent-for-Art Program.

    The Memphis Flyer is the official sponsor for Park(ing) Day. Teams pay a fee to decorate their parking space.

    The Downtown Memphis Commission is the second co-producer of the event; its task is organizing the meters and putting its time and money into the event. Other partners include Memphis Regional Design Center, ArtsMemphis, UrbanArt Commission and Crosstown Arts.

    “Anybody could have submitted an idea,” Peña said. “It was up to us (the producers) to see which group had an interesting idea for the public park.”
    Dawn Vinson, DMC’s director of marketing and special events, said a press release and application for park builders was sent to as many groups as possible, including their partners.

    “We are always looking for ideas on street animations and we re-envision how communities look at public space and how we use space for cars,” Vinson said.

    Vinson said the purpose of Park(ing) Day is to generate fun ways for the park installer to use the space.

    The “parks” will mostly include activities for audience participation and sculptures.

    If You Go
    Park(ing) Day 2012
    When: Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

    Where: Peabody Place (between Front St. and Second Street)
    Details: Observation is free to the public