By Matthew Nerger
(PARK)ing Day is an annual world-wide event which started in 2005 when Rebar, a San Francisco art studio, converted a metered parking spot in downtown San Francisco into a public park complete with a bench, some sod, and a shade tree. Since then the event has gone global, with cities around the world creating temporary public spaces called parklets in urban areas. This Friday, September 18th, for the second year running, Mid City will hold three parklets of its own, put together by the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance.
“It’s a bit of tactical urbanism,” says Lynley Farris, Creative Placemaking Coordinator for MCRA. “We looked at rules, regulations, and laws and saw what we could do within them to create community spaces.”
The first parklet, held from 10am to 2pm at Aladdin’s Lamp Antiques’ parking lot on Government and Lavina, will focus on literacy. Benches made from repurposed wooden pallets will be set up and coffee will be served.
“We don’t have a public library branch in the entire district of Mid City,” says Farris. In place of a public library, the MCRA has been focusing on fostering the growth of Little Free Libraries, small book-sharing libraries set up by community members. Eight new Little Free Libraries will be unveiled at the literacy parklet, four made by Episcopal High Service Learning in collaboration with the LSU Museum of Art, and four from the LSU School of Architecture. Like the benches, all will be repurposed from old wooden pallets, and every visitor who donates a book to the libraries will get a free cake ball from Brew Ha-Ha.
As part of the mayor-president’s healthy city initiative, the second parklet, held from 10:30 am to 7 pm in the Baton Rouge General parking lot at the corner of Philips and Florida, will focus on health in the community. Yoga and meditation from Violet Lotus Studio will be held in the morning, followed by a nutritious lunch from Baton Rouge general, and an adult recess on temporary playground equipment. From 2 to 7 pm, BREC will set up a full temporary park in the parking lot and Whole Foods Market will help plant a community garden.
The third parklet, held in the Radio Bar parking lot from 5 to 10 pm, will focus on art. Live bands and belly dancers will perform, and art from Body Image Tattoo and Bricks not Bombs will be displayed in a temporary pop-up gallery space. Visitors will be encouraged to make their own art at the parklet to display in the gallery to show the variety of the city’s creative community.
“Our focus is on transitioning urban space into community use,” says Farris. The MCRA hopes one day to turn one of their parklets into a permanent part of the community, and in that spirit many of the temporary fixtures of this year’s parklets will find permanent homes across Mid City. Little Free Libraries from the literacy parklet will be set up at Bernard Terrace Elementary School, the MCRA building, and locations across Mid City’s northern neighborhoods. Benches from the literacy parklet will be placed permanently across the city, either in resident’s yards or at CATS bus stops in need of benches, and plans are underway to move the community gardens into one of many food deserts in North Baton Rouge, where it is needed most.
“This is the culture that’s here,” says Farris. “This is the culture that’s unique to Mid City. We want to bring attention to it.”
The parklets open around Mid City from 10 am to 10 pm this Friday, September 18.