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'It's More Than That': P A R K S P A C E Is Art That Encourages Social Distancing

Pease Park Conservancy

“You know, it’s hard to explain,” says Pease Park Conservancy CEO Heath Riddles-Sanchez. “I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have a label. When I first learned about it, I thought ‘Well, it’s a public art installation.’ But it’s more than that.”

He’s talking about P A R K S P A C E, an interactive installation that was put in place this summer at Pease, Republic Square, Roy G. Guerrero, and Zilker Parks. The idea is simple but striking: a series of large, colorful squares painted (with eco-friendly turf paint) on the parks’ grass. The squares are meant to be visually intriguing and also a gentle reminder of social distancing protocols for park visitors.

“It was a group of folks over at the Austin Foundation for Architecture who initially approached us about having it in Pease Park,” Riddles-Sanchez says. “And they were inspired by wildflowers, sort of visually. And certainly thematically inspired by what’s going on around COVID and social distancing.”

Riddles-Sanchez says the installation fits in well with past art projects that have found a home at Pease. “We love, at Pease Park Conservancy, that space where art and nature meet anyway,” he says. “And a lot of times, the nature is the art. And that’s sort of the case here. And when you can take it one step further, and make it something that is interactive, where people are actually using the space in a practical way… that makes it even better.”

According to Riddles-Sanchez, local parks have been getting plenty of visitors during the pandemic. “People are coming to the parks,” he says. “Our parks are some of the few last places where people could really get out and still maintain that distance and be healthy.”

He says he’s been pleasantly surprised to see visitors using the squares as intended, even on hot days. “We really did need to find like a nice big flat kind of open space, which as you can imagine in July and August aren’t always the most used spaces in the park,” Riddles-Sanchez says. “You know, people are seeking shade in cooler areas. So I wasn’t sure if we’d see people out there using it or if we’d just kind have this sort of vacant art installation. But people have interacted with it.”

P A R K S P A C E is installed at Pease, Republic Square, Roy G. Guerrero, and Zilker Parks.

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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