Photo credits: Street Lab




Period of time




New York City, United States

Re-Purposing Entire Streets

Every Saturday through 2020 - October 2021

Street Lab, Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Con Edison Arts Al Fresco

To ensure a road- and health-safe play space for children that is also attractive for community building through chalk murals.

One of the most vulnerable users of our streets are children, who usually need to be accompanied to ensure their safety. They are also among the ones who suffered the most from the COVID-19 lockdown, not being able to go out and play.

Street Lab is a non-profit organization that has created more than 200 pop-up interventions across the city on 800 days of programming since 2011. The diverse installations have ranged from pop-up drawing stations, temporary reading rooms, temporary museum exhibitions, interactive building stations and open-air art studios.

Play Streets are a long-standing tradition in New York City where streets are closed to traffic for play, usually during summer when school is closed.

Now, during the pandemic, Street Lab has adapted its programs to be safe and provide physical distance exploring new ways to mark streets for COVID response. In addition to this, they have created a custom tool kit that allows communities to create striking patterns for COVID distancing, colourful communal murals, and more.

In this way, in closed-off streets, children, their parents and all residents are invited to draw chalk patterns and murals together, while being kept safely apart from each other. They also invited teaching artists and staff to help involve passers-by and elevate the experience.

In addition, children are offered homework hubs, non-contact playstations and chalk drawing activities. PLAY NYC features a colourful obstacle course that offers safe, hands-free play for children.

They've even made it possible to run the program in the winter by reusing outdoor seating and heat lamps from restaurants during their hours off! Its great success has led to the expansion of the programme to other neighbourhoods in 2021, especially those most affected by the pandemic.

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Photo credits: Street Lab