The Exploratorium builds inclusive community spaces for learning and reflection

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Thursday, September 30, 2021
The Exploratorium celebrates the beauty of community space
Here's how the Exploratorium and San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department transform public spaces into places of learning and service.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The Exploratorium's Studio for Public Spaces celebrates the beauty of community spaces by building inclusive experiences rooted in service and education.

"For me, the combination of placemaking and education just belong together because they're mutually beneficial," explained Shawn Lani, a Senior Artist at the Exploratorium.

The Exploratorium focuses on placing installations in public spaces due to the inclusive nature of these locations.

"You have a very broad audience, you have a very broad impact," said Lani. "And potentially, the relevance you might have in somebody's world is a daily impact, and they might be able to rethink or reframe the way they understand the world, not in some rarified environment, but actually in their backyard, or their favorite park, or by the library."

To create these shared experiences, The Exploratorium's Studio for Public Spaces (SPS) partnered with San Francisco's Recreation and Parks Department.

"The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and the Exploratorium have been working together for some time now," said Phil Ginsburg, the GM at the SF Recreation and Parks Department. "Our work actually started in Buchanan Mall."

The SPS team joined a multifaceted partnership working with local residents to plan, design, and build new park enhancements aimed at making Buchanan Mall a safe, green, and well-used center for the neighborhood.

"Being a part of that cooperative process in Buchanan Mall really kicked off the way we thought about public space," recalled Lani.

The Exploratorium's recent project takes place at Alvord Lake in Golden Gate Park. Eight original interactive exhibits animate Alvord Lake's fascinating natural, built, and social environment. Visitors of all ages have the opportunity to share moments of connection while exploring this dynamic spot.

During this two-year installation, visitors can high-five each other along the Hello Highway, investigate how wind shapes the shifting sands of Hidden Dunes, experiment with the magnetic Black Sand found at Ocean Beach, explore the algae that thrive in the lake, and more.

"What we do is try to deepen a sense of connection and a sense of place to a park through a celebration of cultural history, natural history, and political history," said Ginsburg.

"Small gestures can make a very big impact on the way that people frame their understandings," said Lani. "And that's what we try to do, simple, smart, interactive, and insightful."

For more information about the Exploratorium's Studio for Public Spaces, visit here.