“The Universal Silver Platter” at FIGMENT Oakland

On Saturday, June 10th, the Universal Silver Platter opened in downtown Oakland. For just one day, we handed people whatever they needed or desired most on a silver platter.

FIGMENT   is a participatory art festival that takes place in a few cities across the US. Artists, designers, and entertainers come together to create fun, creative pop-up experiences open to the public. My friend Josh L suggested the festival, and my friend Josh H joined the project when we decided we wanted to jump on the opportunity to create a fun, playful experience for our community.

After a quick brainstorming session, we riffed off the idea of using an actual silver platter that I had to symbolize the current political discourse around entitlements. Rather than having privileged, smug, politicians telling people they should just work harder, and that they don’t deserve or even need assistance with education, healthcare, or housing, we decided that for one day, you DO deserve to have whatever you need “handed to you on a silver platter”.

Our team quickly prototyped a nail board to collect the collective story of what people needed and wanted on installation day. We dubbed it the “USP Data Accumulator” to fit with our theme of the Silver Platter being like a government bureau or information desk. The idea was to have each participant choose a colored rubber band based on the theme of their wish or desire, then attach it to the nail board based on their relationship with the person who granted their wish and the outcome of their wish.

Participants were invited to express a need, wish or desire. We asked visitors to fulfil one another’s wishes, and if a single visitor came up, a “U.S.P. Technician” (one of the designers) would draw their wish. Once the wish was represented graphically or with words, the wish grantor would hand the completed wish to the recipient on one of our shiny silver platters.

Finally, the person who had just had their wish handed to them on a silver platter would add a rubber band to the data accumulator.

There were quite a few other fun installations happening that day in Oakland’s Mosswood park:

And by the end of the installation day, we had so many rubber bands stretched on our nailboard, that they started popping off!

We had a lot of fun playing with the visitors to the U.S.P. booth, and had a number of interesting and illuminating conversations. Some of our visitors wished for something quite meaningful and serious – a healthy body, a child, family reconciliation. Others wished for something more lighthearted like a goat to eat their neighbor’s ivy, or a fried chicken sandwich. One of our younger visitors had the following, slightly creepy wish:

It was a day well spent, facilitating conversations and granting wishes to our friends and neighbors.

The Play Station SF

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Keep your eyes peeled for a new outdoor fitness and play installation that will be popping up on the sidewalk of Market Street in downtown San Francisco this fall. I’m part of the team behind “The Play Station”, a concept proposal that was accepted by the Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and the San Francisco Planning Department to be part of this year’s Market Street Prototyping Festival. 

Our team has been engaged in a brainstorming and concept development process for the past couple months and we’re excited to share our project progress with you: 

Play is for everyone. But there’s really nowhere to play on Market Street. Thousands of people will walk by this spot or wait for the bus – but they won’t play. Step into The Play Station and experience Market Street in more fun way. Placing free, public workout equipment in a public space is a radical way to invite everyone to workout, play, and feel good – right on a city sidewalk. Community starts with a shared experience. The Play Station invites anyone to look up, get curious, and start playing. Don’t just wait – play. How far can you go while you wait for the bus?

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After researching current challenges and needs on Market Street (above, a visual of a typical bus stop), we’ve recently moved from concept development to prototyping some of the moving parts. 

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Team Play Station recently had the opportunity to get feedback from the public at an open house along with other artists and designers. We debuted our kinetic hand-cranked bicycle sculpture prototype, complete with installation of a 256-LED programmable Monkeylight PRO donated by our new friends, local business, and bike fun advocates Monkeylectric over in Berkeley. 

Stay up to date on our progress by following #mspf and #playstationsf and by adding your name to our email list over at www.theplaystationsf.com – or come find us October 6-8 on Market Street between Ellis and O’Farrell Streets! We’re open to collaboration (activities, games, cyclecomputers and more), participation (lead a game or activity during the festival) or feedback (how to make our installation safer and more interactive), so please get in touch. 

Playland at 43rd – A Brand New SF Park(ing) Lot Playspace

Neighbors, designers, and families teamed to create a low-cost, low-intervention flexible play and gathering space in what was formerly a very large asphalt-paved school parking lot in San Francisco’s Sunset District. 

Even on a wet, cloudy day, these photos clearly show the effort made to create a bright, colorful, welcoming space. Overhead nylon paracord delineates a pingpong table and outdoor seating, and colorful painted murals break up the asphalt surfacing. 

A newly built plot of raised beds freshly planted with greens frames the new skate park, in the back, with the magenta spires of two climbable “San Francisco Hills” donated by participants in last year’s Market Street Prototyping Festival.