East Akron suffers from a more negative image than most Akron neighborhoods. An overall lack of color and artwork contributes to this, but the neighborhood is also bisected by roadways and gaps in investment that further isolate residents across key corridors.
To activate East Akron’s southern corridor, @PLAY focussed on a neglected playground on Jonathan Ave., across the street from the Boys & Girls Club’s Administrative Offices, and behind Akron Public School’s Bridges Learning Center. This playground was poorly maintained, with numerous amenities in disrepair, and signs of frequent vandalism. Given its sprawling footprint, and strategic location amidst three low income housing areas, our hope was to transform the playground into a vibrant sign of hope and optimism for future generations.
We power-washed the staircase and surrounding wallscapes in preparation for two days of creative collaboration with teens from the Eller Boys & Girls Club. The steps were painted in rainbow colors to provide a bright sparks of positivity from all directions, and the walls bookending both sides were painted with exterior chalkboard paint, transforming the space into a destination for celebration and creative expression.
As many East Akron residents told us, “we’ve go to give these kids something to do.” Since creating the rainbow stairs and Akron’s first public chalkboard wall, the feedback has been tremendous. This initiative took place immediately following a string of shootings across East Akron that devastated the neighborhood. Since transforming the playground, East Akron residents have embraced it as a safe space for creative expression and play. As one Boys & Girls Club executive told us:
The playground is amazing. Everyone looks forward to seeing it and the kids draw all over the chalkboard walls. The best part is, no one has to clean it. They can create whatever they want, then it rains, and they can start all over again with a fresh canvas.