Craft

Here is where to find parking places-turned-parks Friday and Saturday in downtown Bloomington.

For The Pantagraph

The creative folks at the Downtown Bloomington Association are back having their fun way with our heretofore overlooked, or under-appreciated, or both, urban spaces.

Earlier this summer, the DBA successfully turned the fringe-dwelling steampunk movement into a two-day street festival, with more Victorian frills and Tesla coils attached than any fest hereabouts before or since.

Speaking of Tesla coils, how about their transformation of those ugly electrical utility boxes around downtown into colorful works of street art?

Now that's our kind of buzz.

This weekend, another new DBA offering is about to take the hum out of the drum.

Parallel parking places: can't live with them, can't live without them.

This weekend that dilemma will be a moot point, we're happy to say.

The occasion is Bloomington's first-time participation in the National PARK(ing) Day movement, which was born around 12 years ago in San Francisco, a city that looks good even on its worst day.

Here's the short version of how it traveled from west to, we're told, around the world.

A Frisco design studio called Rebar decided to take a single metered parking space downtown and transform it into a temporary public park for two hours (the length of time on the meter).

The motivation: that part of the city had been cited with having a dearth of open public space.

"Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis," say the creators.

"The PARK(ing) project was created to explore the 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."

When the meter expired, "we rolled up the sod, packed away the bench and the tree, and gave the block a good sweep, and left."

But not really: A few weeks a photo of mini-park traveled across the web, and a national, then global, movement was born.

This idea of decreeing a car-length stretch of asphalt a public park isn't just an attempt to be glib or clever, we're assured.

"PARK(ing) Day has effectively re-valued the metered parking space as an important part of the commons — a site for generosity, cultural expression, socializing and play.

"And although the project is temporary, we hope PARK(ing) Day inspires you to participate in the civic processes that permanently alter the urban landscape."

It has landed on the third Friday of September ever since.

As far as Bloomington's participation goes, says the DBA's executive director Tricia Stiller, "it's about encouraging the sharing of the urban environment ... we all have to coexist, and this illustrates how we can do that successfully."

All told, "I think it'll be fun, there are some really cute ideas."

Partnering with the city of Bloomington and McLean County Regional Planning, the DBA has designated a total of six parking-space parks, which will "coexist with through-traffic, and will create a lively, interactive atmosphere filled with people enjoying our historic downtown."

Here's the your guide to mini-park-hopping ... or do you prefer park-crawling?

Hours are more than two, thank goodness: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and (for those sponsors wanting to continue a second day) 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

1. Main Street, east side of courthouse square: a life-sized Candy Land Game, sponsored by C.H.A.R.M. Inc.

2. Jefferson Street, north side of courthouse square: Loteria Museo, a life-sized version of a traditional Mexican bingo-style game in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month; sponsored my McLean County Museum of History.

3. Center Street, Monroe Center (between Monroe and Jefferson): "Flip Your Wig" for American Cancer Society, sponsored by Fox & Hounds Hair Studio & Day Spa.

4. Center Street, between Post Office and parking garage: Outdoor Sculpture Garden on Old Route 66, sponsored by Eaton Gallery.

5. Main Street, between Monroe and Market: Over-Sized Games, sponsored by Jack Bataoel Real Estate Group.

6. Main Street, between Monroe and Market: WBRP "parklet," sponsored by West Bloomington Revitalization Project.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com.

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