The Art of Parking

Jeff Petry

Having the “Sunbathing Lady of the Lot” suddenly appear in our parking lot opened my mind to parking art. It also led me down a path of path of parking art that has included Knotty Knitters crafting cozies for meter poles and bike racks, a yearlong partnership with students at nearby Lane Community College to design and fabricate custom bike racks, a North American art competition on the wall of a parking garage that’s run for three years now, poetry installed in the stairway of a parking garage, a poem on the epark Eugene iPhone app, digital art on top of parking garages, and a street artist competition on concrete parking bollards.

We in Eugene have enjoyed a breadcrumb approach to incorporating art into our parking program. It started with the city’s Public Art Plan goal to “incorporate art into everyday objects.” It continued by inserting the word “parking” into this goal and working to “incorporate art into everyday parking objects.”

My first exposure to parking art was an overnight installation by the 12th Avenue Collaborative group that placed a parking space-sized, bikini-clad lady in our lot. I had a choice: trash it or let it stay. The artists made the decision easy by paying for all the parking spaces they used, and the lady attracted a lot of downtown visitors and positive attention, which is great news for any parking program.

Recently, at the Pacific Intermountain Parking & Transportation Association (PITPA) Conference and Tradeshow, keynote speaker Darin Watkins, of Washington State University, asked the audience, “How many of you can say you had three positive media stories  about your program in the last year?” I was able to raise my hand because we have invested in local partnerships that bring creativity to our parking system. This idea, however, is not unique. It could be implemented anywhere. All it takes is a parking professional willing to ask the question. Are you that person?

Step Into [Parking] Poetry

Jeff Petry

In an earlier blog post I talked about our bread crumb approach to partnering with creative people and organizations in our community. Our downtown parking garage display, Step into Poetry, provides a specific example of how simple the process can be for parking professionals.

This project was the result of a passing hallway conversation with an employee who is also a poet. I asked her if she knew any poets that would be interested in having their work displayed in a parking garage. The response was amazing. Within days, I received an email from the local chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association and scheduled a walk through a garage. I expected two or three people to attend, but was surprised by about 12 local writers! We toured the garage, coffee in hand. The poets formed three committees and presented me with three options to add poetry to the garage.

We picked an easy project to complete: panels in the stairs. From there, we moved to the design and poetry submission phases. I asked for help from another department’s graphic artist for the design layout, which incorporated what we learned from Todd Pierce’s “What’s Your Brand?” IPI webinar. The poets asked for submissions and permissions from their membership, and we worked together to select seven poems and a featured poem by Oregon’s Poet Laureate.

The Step into Poetry project is a success. It incorporates art into parking, reinvests parking funds where they are collected, supports local arts and the development of artists in our community, and reinforces the creative, distinctive culture of downtown. We have visitors who park in the garage just to take the stairs! Graffiti and vandalism have dropped to zero in this staircase since installation, and we enjoy many kudos from the community.

How do we build upon this success? We keep writing of course! In September, we will install “Step into Prose” panels that display flash fiction from local writers. We are tying the flash fiction to the city’s 150th birthday party by gathering submissions that look back over our past 150 years as well as looking forward 150 years.

All this took was asking a simple question.

Do you think this program might work in your community? Why or why not? Comment below.