Play Sculpture and the Spectrum of Play in Sheffield

It was a privilege to be at Site Gallery in Sheffield in conversation with my friends Simon and Tom Bloor and some of my dear readers (hello!) to discuss play sculpture, its historical context, and its place in modern play design.  Site Gallery is a unique space in that it has been in Sheffield for three decades; a time in which other contemporary art galleries have come and gone.  And because contemporary art is designed to challenge and provoke, I intentionally broached some controversial ideas, like “Should we take the ‘ground’ out of ‘playground?” and  “Have we defined play too much by real estate?”   What do you think?

Play sculpture is simultaneously one of the most popular things I talk about here at Playscapes, and the most controversial.  I get mail saying I shouldn’t feature it at all, since it’s not a playground.  But I remain fascinated by its potential to extend the idea of play throughout the city, and to go where playgrounds cannot. Sculpture taps a different audience, a different funding stream, and a different set of safety considerations than those that have come to limit what even the most innovative playground can be.  Sculpture scales, to small spaces or big ones, and easily occupies neglected spaces.  For good or ill, we have attached a higher value, culturally, to ‘art’ than to ‘play’, and play sculpture can tap that differential.

The conversation we’ve been having here at Playscapes  for the last six years about the need for great design on the playground–which I strive to perpetuate mostly by inspiration rather than criticism–has really mattered and play design is changing for the better.  But I also want to see what I call the ‘spectrum’ for play expand, so that kids have play opportunities throughout the space they move through.  Opportunities that range from the temporary to the permanent, from small to large, and from adventurous to artistic with everything in between.  Sculpture isn’t the only way to achieve that but it’s one tool we can use.  Take a look at a few excerpts from the slides, and discuss!  I’d love to have your comments.   More from Sheffield tomorrow.


2 Responses to “Play Sculpture and the Spectrum of Play in Sheffield”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Thank you Zana! Keep me posted with news of your project!

    October 01, 2014 at 5:46 pm

  2. Zana said:

    Hi Paige
    Just wanted to say it was a privilege and an honour to hear your inspirational talk in Sheffield. It has inspired myself and my colleague in our future development of an open space in Yorkshire and I look forward to more inspirational posts from you,
    Many thanks for everything.

    October 01, 2014 at 4:43 pm

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