"Park" is one of those words that can't make up its mind. Sometimes it's a noun describing an outdoor space reserved for public recreation. More often it's the verb for stop it and stow it. National Park(ing) Day, which began in San Francisco and migrated to Memphis last year, mixes the meanings into a hearty noun/verb salad by asking artists, organizations, and businesses to convert individual city parking spaces into unique miniature parks roughly the size of a Land Rover.
Last September, one of the metered spaces on Peabody Place between Front and Second was converted into a tiny roller derby rink where skaters could stop in for a lesson. There was also a playground made from old car parts, a library where you could check out humans, and a dozen other small enterprises. This year, the 16 selected groups will transform those same tiny parcels of land into islands of interest where people can work, play, relax, learn, or maybe just enjoy a free sno-cone.
"Last year, people would come out of their offices and ask, 'Why can't this happen every day?' says artist Cat Peña, who produces the event in conjunction with the Downtown Memphis Commission, the Regional Design Center, the city of Memphis, ArtsMemphis, Crosstown Arts, and the UrbanArt Commission.
Peña describes Memphis as a place of incredible potential. But sometimes, she says, people "need permission" to see things differently.
This year's Park(ing) Day attractions include a human-scale Jenga game sponsored by Self & Tucker Architects and the Downtown Neighborhood Association, an ArtsMemphis performance area, and Livable Memphis' bicycle repair station. For one of those sno-cones, you'll want to visit Parking Brake, a relaxation zone imagined by artist Mary Long-Postal.
Park(ing) Day Memphis, Friday, September 21st, 11 a.m.-6-p.m., Peabody Place between Front and Second Streets. Free.