Local Tennis Leagues is all about park and public courts so when we heard the the USTA was picking up its paintbrushes to add a touch of colour to its public courts we had to find out more. The result is an amazing artistic celebration marking 50 years of the US Open that is designed to inspire tennis everywhere.
You don’t have to wear whites to play tennis and tennis courts do not have to be boring black tarmac. They can be as colourful as a Jackson Pollock. That’s what the USTA decided when it was a looking for a way to celebrate 50 years of the US Open and to connect with kids in deprived parts of five cities.
In Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cincinnati and New York, it invited local artists to repaint refurbished park courts. The results are a spectacular and attention-grabbing celebration of colour and creativity. Not only do they successfully squash any idea that park courts are neglected run down spaces where you hit the ball between cracked tarmac and flowering weeds. They also challenge the idea that tennis is an elitist sport of rigid rules and decorum.
Manoela del Pila Madera Nadal David Gray Edgerton of Kiik Create designed the courts in Miami (pictured above). “We wanted to radiate positive energy,” says Edgerton.
So would it work here?
“What a great idea,” says Robby Sukhdeo who runs the Pavilion Sports and Café an award-winning community resource in Haringey, north London, which is a magnet for both adults and children. “The courts look amazing.” Having successfully battled vandalism for many years, however, he worries this kind of design could attract graffiti if he tried it himself. But who knows? Robby has long since championed the use of art as part of the tennis mix at his centre. Right is the mosaic he commissioned that has long been an iconic feature and the cafe itself is used for everything from jazz conerts to life-drawing classes.
The US project has been an eye-opener and might even bring a whole new dimension to the sport. "I’m an abstract artist – I have to use shapes and colours, the visual language, to tell a story. I often hide words or secret messages in my work. I think this project is a cool opportunity to hide some sort of inspiring or positive message within the artwork on the court," says artist Charlie Edmiston who transformed courts in Harvard Park, Los Angeles (see below).
The US project is a powerful reminder that many a great tennis player, including Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe and the Williams sisters began playing tennis on park courts. Jimmy Connors still remembers the sound of the ball hitting the anti-vandal metal net where he played – and learned not to hit the net as the ball came back with interest. Hopefully a new generation of children will be inspired and discover that tennis really is for them and that courts are a blank canvas for being as creative as you want to be.
For more details, see the USTA website