People who work in CityPlace said they were intrigued Friday morning when they saw a patch of sod covering a metered parking spot on Asylum Street.
Things got more unusual when three women installed a canopy on the grass and filled the wire grid on top with plastic cups of colored water, creating a rainbow effect.
"What are you guys doing?" one passerby asked. "It's pretty," said another.
Lori Robeau and Melissa Ralston-Jones' installation was one of nine pop-up parks downtown on Friday for Hartford's version of PARK(ing) Day, an international movement that aims to start a discussion on the need for green space in concrete jungles.
Knox Parks Foundation provided sod and planters to set off each space, and artists were commissioned to do whatever they wanted with them.
Nina Goodale-Salazar and her team donned Alice In Wonderland-style costumes and held a tea party on Pratt Street. Carol Padberg set up chairs under a quilted umbrella she made with fabrics from all over the world and invited passersby to eat their lunch, or an organic apple she was offering.
John O'Donnell wore overalls and stood with bare feet, carrying a slingshot in his pocket for his "Go Play In The Yard" piece on Pearl Street. The state Department of Transportation used its space to raise awareness of its "Transform CT" effort.
"We're reclaiming some urban jungle for something fun and pretty," said Liz Hucker, director of community investment for the Greater Hartford Arts Council. Hucker was inviting people to paint pumpkins at the council's spot in the parking lot between Pratt and Asylum streets.
The council organized the event with Knox Inc. and the Hartford Business Improvement District, with support from the city's marketing, events and cultural affairs division; Civic Mind Studios; the Hartford Parking Authority; and the Hartford Police Department.
PARK(ing) Day was started by art studio Rebar in 2005, when it turned one parking spot in downtown San Francisco into a temporary park, according to parkingday.org. Cities all over the world planned to participate Friday, according to the site.
Ryan O'Halloran, director of advancement and marketing for Knox, said the organization participated because the day "strikes at our mission."
"The core of what we do is engaging the community to make beauty in their own lives," he said. "PARK(ing) Day is about owning the spaces they invest in through their tax dollars."
"It's certainly an interesting idea. I believe we need more green space," said Brett Palmer, a UnitedHealthcare employee who was taking a cigarette break near Robeau's installation. "It was an arresting display. It piqued our interest."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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