The Oval began as an experiment in activating underutilized public space in the summer of 2013. Over the past four years, Fairmount Park Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation have worked in partnership to bring the Oval to the Parkway, transforming an eight-acre surface parking lot into a vibrant seasonal destination with games, fitness, and activities for people of all ages. In 2016, we added a series of events, resources and workshops aimed at engaging the public in envisioning the past, present, and future of Fairmount Park.
The Oval: Connecting to Fairmount Park added an additional layer of programming and engagement to the Oval’s regular slate of activities, which include movie nights, live music, food trucks, yoga, learn-to-ride classes, a beer garden and more. Connecting to Fairmount Park focused on the heart of the city’s expansive park system and the largest urban park in the United States – Fairmount Park. Through programs that encouraged people to discover the history of the park, to share the unparalleled experiences they are able to find there, and to explore what might be possible in the park’s future, Connecting to Fairmount Park aimed to bring a piece of Fairmount Park directly to the people of Philadelphia.
2016 Programs: Bike Tours, Map, Cake, and Bearded Ladies!
In July of 2016, the Conservancy engaged Public Workshop to create, with their Building Heroes, a gathering spot and mobile exhibition in the Oval. The Fairmount Launch was born. At the Launch, the Conservancy released 50 Unique Experiences in Fairmount Park, a long-awaited map of East and West Fairmount Park. Beautifully realized by Whole Brain Design, the map addresses one of Fairmount Park’s primary challenges – its daunting size and legibility challenges that make it tricky to navigate. The map, in addition to highlighting the park’s topography and hydrology, features 50 unique experiences that people of all ages can discover in the park. The Oval was home to the map’s debut, where visitors could pick up a free copy, in addition to joining guided bike tours celebrating the map’s publication, including rides led by the Association for Public Art and PennPraxis. Read more about 50 Unique Experiences here!
August brought more events as part of the Oval: Connecting to Fairmount Park. In partnership with Public Workshop, Fairmount Park Conservancy hosted a collaborative model-building exercise at the Oval, inviting participants to create a model of Fairmount Park and to share experiences and hopes for the future of the park in the process. The model materials? Flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and a lot of chocolate. Read more about the event and the ginormous chocolate cake model here!
To close the 2016 Oval season, the experimental cabaret company the Bearded Ladies Cabaret took to the Oval stage to perform Bitter Homes & Gardens, a singing and dancing spectacle in which the theater troupe asked, “If plants had voices, what would they sing?” The show featured flowers, ferns, and vegetables singing and dancing their way through the big questions that face our plant brethren. Read more about Bitter Homes & Gardens here!