The Lilies Project

Caroline Armijo

Funding Received: 2017
Walnut Cove, NC
Funding Period: 2 years and 6 months
November 12, 2020
June 18, 2018

Susan G. Solomon has written two intriguing books about play. Her latest book "The Science of Play" talks about how playgrounds fail to serve the needs of kids. Solomon shares on her web site, "Taking my lead from behavioral sciences, I look for public play solutions that encourage risk-taking, succeeding and failing, planning ahead, gaining friends. Many of these built works are inexpensive, sustainable, and easy to accomplish."

Solomon is also a regular contributor to Paige Johnson's Playscapes blog, which I regularly devoured during my DC tenure. In this post, Solomon talks about artists as a means of creating playspaces:

Counter-intuitively, the most adventurous designs may be the least vulnerable to lawsuits. In other words, the work of artists is less likely to be the proverbial lightening rod to draw even the few suits that do develop. Sculpture can have fewer restraints. Teri Hendy explains that it is a matter of intent. If the sculpture is meant to be an interactive spatial experience, rather than a climbing or swinging one, then the primary issue to be addressed could be head entrapment.

Protective surfacing is often not necessary. Sculptor Patrick Dougherty’s sublime work is a good example. He is a master of willow construction. Many museums have commissioned his pieces for their premises. A number of children’s museums have hired him, too. When available to kids, these sculptures encourage fantasy, hiding, being alone; they offer the mystery of being in a unique enclosure. Common sense dictates that there be attention to random stray twigs that could injury the eye of a child running nearby.


Patrick Dougherty is my favorite living artist and recently acquired property in Stokes County. Participating in one of his builds is on the top of my bucket list. And I even have him in my mind's eye for what I hope will unfold for Walnut Cove, if funding and timing work in our favor. 


Solomon highlights another artist designed playground with the work of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, a Japanese Canadian fiber artist, who installed her first US work of art at our local children's museum in Winston-Salem. What is now known as the Kaledium houses her installation on the patio overlooking the famed Salem Tea Pot. Guests can swing on large balls that are interwoven into a cocoon of into a central web. 

I adore the perfect balance of art and play that is intrinsic to both of these artists. I hope that these same elements will translate into my future site installations. I eagerly await their unfolding. 

In the meantime, I have taken the questions crafted by Solomon and a couple of planning surveys, which I hope will help get the community's creative juices flowing. You have until June 25th to print them out and submit them to Oma's for $1 credit for your drink of choice! Of course, I am also open to other forms of communication. I can't wait to hear your ideas.