A significant neighborhood initiative is underway in Black Rock, at the corner of Amherst Street and Niagara Street (aka Market Square). The creation of a community park is at hand, thanks to the efforts of the Black Rock Riverside Alliance (BRRAlliance). The endeavor marks the completion of the Playing Through Time Play Path (made possible via funding from KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge Grant powered by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation). The park encompasses two art components, as well as myriad other integral place making assets.
The first art element is a giant mural created by Chris Pionkowski – the “We are…” mural is meant to signify all of the people in and around the Black Rock neighborhood (past and present), who are also represented in a 3D sculptural component called People of Black Rock that was dreamed up and constructed by Justin Dahl (Queen City Fine Arts). Altogether, the work features people of 15 different cultures who have been painted on two stacked wooden drums. The drums are separated by casters which allow them to spin. People can spin the drums to mix and match the figures. According to curators, these works encompass the Maya Angelou quote “in diversity there is beauty, and there is strength”.
BRRAlliance founder and Board of Director President Mary Ann Kedron says of this project, “It has been an opportunity to tell the story of the rich history of this part of the city in fun and creative ways and engage members of the community in designing and creating these elements for all to use. We are most proud of the fact that the majority of the funding for this project stayed in the community as we worked with local artists and craftspersons to create and install this collection of play elements.”
I spoke to BRRAlliance Project Manager Anne McCooey who expressed that this was the type of project that can bring a community together. As we walked the grounds, she pointed out an oversized chalkboard, with a little storage boat that housed the chalk (made by The Foundry). She showed me where they would be adding a habitat section to the grounds with native plants and a garden. “The money for the project was spent locally,” she told me. “It was important to keep the money in the community – we have so many talented people who we need to be supporting when it comes to these types of projects. We plan on showing movies here, having performances, and hopefully hosting some market events. The park will be a place where people can come together for an assortment of constructive ideas and activities.”
^Photos: Gregory Velazquez
The construction of the neighborhood park at Market Square is just one of a number of other inspirational projects that comprise the Playing Through Time Play Path (see others here). Other components feature sidewalk hopscotch games, stump walk paths, balance beams, stepping bridges, and a game table. At the same time, Garden Ambassadors have been established that “pop up” at the community gardens. The ambassadors are trained in methods culled from the Texas A&M Jr. Gardener curriculum. Not only is this the subject matter informational pertaining to flora, it’s also designed to be fun, with the introduction of games such as “flower pot pong”.
Another sculpture that made its way to the Farmer Street garden earlier in the year is known as “BRockie”. The work of art is that of Lawrence Kinney, and is described as “a happy pig that welcomes visitors to the Farmer Street garden and silently depicts the story of the livestock path which ran through that area as farmers from the northtowns brought their livestock to the village of Black Rock to provide fresh meat for the Erie Canal boats.”
These latest Playing Through Time Play Path projects were made possible thanks to the Paul and HelenEllis Charitable Trust and Coucilmember Joseph Golombek. Moreover, it is the Black Rock and Riverside communities that are embracing these new neighborhood building efforts, which is the only way that the revitalization momentum will continue.