Poster for the opening of the Hull-House Playground, Chicago, May 5, 1894.

Embodied by a twelve-foot seesaw—a piece of playground equipment requiring cooperation—A Plea for Playgrounds is the result of a collaboration between artist Jim Duignan and a group of elders who shared with him personal stories of their youth. Growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, the artist’s own childhood experiences echoed those of the elders, where playgrounds operated as natural social centers for the community. Jane Addams’s Hull-House was also a shared influence in these conversations, as was the 1905 manifesto A Plea for Playgrounds, a publication written by a group of concerned volunteers that drew connections between poverty, health, democracy, and access to these sites.

As part of this project Duignan is also collaborating with Jennifer Gray, architectural historian at Columbia University in New York, to create a contemporary Plea for Playgrounds in an effort to galvanize awareness about playgrounds as community spaces—as cities face many of the same concerns as they did more than a century ago—and inspire people to reclaim their communities by engaging physical and social spaces in the public sphere.

 

For more information, please visit A Plea for Playgrounds’ Facebook page.