Past, Present and Future of Play, NYC, @Van_Alen Institute, Saturday June 13

In addition to museums and public spaces commissioning playful installations, there are a wealth of play and play history-focused exhibitions and symposiums this summer as well.  Act fast to take advantage of the Van Alen Institute’s exploration of the network of play spaces that serve as ‘hangouts’ for New Yorkers, because TOMORROW, Saturday June 13 includes three exciting events within the theme of “In the Park” focusing on the questions of

What can we learn from play spaces of the past? (11-1, Central Park)
How do we connect with nature in the city? (1:30-2:30, Central Park)
Is play just for children? (4-5:30, Van Alen Institute)

Play Pasts” asks how can old play spaces be updated to preserve original design ideas while keeping pace with ever-evolving design standards and notions of childhood. Join us for a fun, intimate journey through Central Park’s play spaces and landscapes to learn more about the work of the Central Park Conservancy and play of the past. Marie Warsh, historian and director of preservation planning at the Conservancy, will guide us on a tour of playgrounds in Central Park, reflecting on the cultural histories embedded in the landscape. Exploring changing notions of childhood and play, we’ll visit the Children’s District, designed by Olmsted and Vaux; Heckscher Playground, the park’s first modern playground; and other play spaces that have undergone a number of transformations, including the newly-rehabilitated Adventure Playground at West 67th Street.

As we grow more attached to devices, the essential experience of being in nature becomes increasingly rare. How often do we touch the bark of a city tree? Scale a boulder? The “Play Present” walk is led by artist and mindfulness practitioner Sara Overton, who is developing the art project Awake in the Wild Experience with Mark Coleman, author of the book Awake in the Wild. Using touch, scent, sight, and sound we’ll explore flowers, trees, and grasses we may often walk past without noticing. Through a series of exercises, we’ll awaken our capacity to be with nature directly, playfully, and with a sense of joy.

As the culture of childhood and ideas about recreation continue to evolve, so do designs for our parks and playgrounds. Join us for “Play Futures,” a conversation about the future of urban play. We’ll discuss how everything from conceptions of childhood, trends in parenting, and evolving safety standards impact the design of our play spaces. Surveying the latest currents, from adventure and imagination playgrounds, to nature-based and intergenerational play, we’ll explore questions like: Is play just for children? Does it need a designated space? What should be the role of play spaces in exposing users to and protecting them from risk? What are our playgrounds getting right? What lessons can be learned from other places?
Participants: Amy Fusselman, writer and editor; Marta Gutman, architect and historian; Chris Nolan, vice president for planning, design and construction, Central Park Conservancy; Susan G. Solomon, architectural historian; Nancy Prince, deputy chief for design, NYC Parks .

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