My buddy, Josh Ente, wants to do something fun for his neighborhood in New Orleans. It’s interactive. It’s public art. It’s a giant ball pit in an abandoned house. Because joy and silliness are important too.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the number of vacant housing units in New Orleans has doubled, raising the number of unoccupied houses to more than a quarter of the city’s total units. Blight is inescapable, and very little improvement is seen through: some owners fled the city and never returned, many others came back but remain financially paralyzed, and others are just intractable. I’ve passed by these former homes every day in my neighborhood for years, and I’m tired of seeing pieces of my community fall into ruin and expressing nothing but despair. It’s time to flip the script.
But what can be done with a house where there is nothing left but the frames of its exterior walls? The answer is rather obvious to me - turn the open floor plan into a giant ball pit! A ball pit, 30 feet long, 16 feet wide, 4 feet deep full of balls to jump and play in - and rather than waste everyone’s time with those weak, boring 3” balls you’d find at McDonald’s, I’m going for it all: using thousands of 10” and 15” soft, bouncy playground balls. Yes, these!
How will it work? For NO admission fee, the ball pit will be open to the public (or at least those members of the public willing to assume risk for the fun they’ll have); supervised kids, adults - anyone, everyone - will be welcome to take advantage of this new community resource for outdoor play, neighborly engagement, and communal socializing. Open during the day and in the evening, there will be special events including live music, projected film screenings, and more, but most often the ball pit will be just an arena for glorious, glorious play. Netting will keep the balls in the pit, and foam padding on every exposed beam will make it safe and comfortable for everyone.
When and where? The ball pit will be ready to go by early May, with an official grand opening tentatively scheduled for Saturday, May 12, and will be open for about a month or six weeks - until it gets too hot, basically. The house is located at 2816 Burgundy St in the Marigny (that’s New Orleans, LA, 70117).
Who are you and what do you think you’re doing? I’m Josh. When I do things out loud, I mostly do them with film, the past several years in New Orleans with Court 13 - from directing Big Freedia’s music video for “Y’all Get Back Now” to working in the art department for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize-winning Beasts of the Southern Wild. I’ve never built a giant ball pit in an abandoned house before, and that’s fine by me.
Call this an interactive art installation, a neighborhood development initiative, or just totally crazy - to me it’s simply a giant ball pit. Silly, I know, but it is serious too! There’s really important work to do to bring attention to the blight and slow progress in New Orleans, and on an immediate level, to improve a dangerous pockmark in my neighborhood. Fortunately the only way I know how to fight these serious problems is to facilitate absurd, riotous joy with equal and opposite force.
How you can help: This project is really as simple as it sounds - all I’m going to do is thoroughly clean and secure the house, put up the netting/padding, fill it up with balls, and create a comfortable space to visit and spend time. This all takes a fair bit of money, and all donations will go directly into these four tasks, and it really is a more-is-more situation: more funding means a more secure house, a more comfortable area to rest and chat in, and so on. Extra funds will be thrown into publicity and maintenance once it’s built. If you’re in New Orleans and would like to participate in ANY part of the process, you are more than welcome - a ball pit is nothing without all of the people in it, starting with making it actually exist.
This will be a truly memorable and exciting addition to the community, and serve as a reminder that our neighborhoods are what we make them. In New Orleans, we can continue to ignore decay and abandonment but I think it’s time we transform the neighborhoods ourselves, using the best and most abundant tool we have here: communal joy. It’s going to happen, and I hope you’ll join me.
Embrace the craziness— get involved, and find us on facebook here! And thank you so, so much—
yay for my city!! i’ll be there when this opens :) have to bring the nephews! donatedonatedonatedonate!!!
This makes me so happy!