Five questions with muralist Timothy Goodman
Timothy Goodman’s art makes order out of chaos. The New York City-based muralist and designer uses bold colors and encouraging words to liven up walls, webpages, and consumer goods, earning him industry accolades and partnerships with big-name clients like Google, Target, and Netflix. But this summer, Goodman took on his biggest canvas yet: a pair of massive murals covering the basketball courts at two public schoolyards in New York City.
Goodman partnered with The Trust for Public Land and the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation, an effort spearheaded by the Brooklyn Nets superstar to renovate dozens of basketball courts. The latest works are part of a complete redesign of the playgrounds at P.S. 152/315 and P.S. 115, both in Brooklyn. Alongside Goodman’s eye-catching designs, students and neighbors helped plan upgrades like more trees, turf playing fields, and one-of-a-kind play equipment.
What were once patches of bare pavement are now green, welcoming parks that will help keep the whole neighborhood cooler on hot days, absorb stormwater runoff, and create engaging spaces for students to play, learn, and exercise. And—like all of the 210 playgrounds we’ve helped rebuild throughout New York City—they’re open to the neighborhood outside of school hours. That means more space for everyone to stretch their legs and get some fresh air: a big deal in a city as dense as New York, especially during the pandemic.
This week we’re celebrating the grand opening of the new schoolyard at P.S. 115. We caught up with Goodman recently to learn more about his inspiration behind these cool new designs.
1. What do you remember about your schoolyard as a kid?
I grew up in Cleveland, so our school had more open space than most of the ones in New York City. When you’re that age, you have so much energy and I just remember it being tough to keep it in when I was in class. I loved recess so much: it was when we were able to let loose and have fun.
I also loved playing basketball—it’s always been my favorite sport, and I played a ton as a kid. So it was kind of a dream for me to be able to work with Kevin Durant and create these works on basketball courts. And who knows—maybe these murals will inspire the next Kevin Durant!
2. How did you decide what to create at each of these schools?
I have the students to thank for a lot of it! They’re the ones who will be using these spaces the most, so it was really important to make sure they were part of the process.
Before coronavirus, I was able to do an in-person workshop with the students at each school. I asked a series of questions about who they are as a school community, what their neighborhood is like and what living in Brooklyn means to them. And then I asked them to draw out those answers, so we created a lot of art together. We talked through some of what they’d drawn, and decided on a few core values the students wanted to express: community, future, hard work, and belief. Those mantras became the biggest pieces of the mural.
3. What’s your process for designing and creating such a big, intricate work?
I came away from the student workshops with a lot of drawings and ideas for what they hoped to see on the court, and then I interpreted that into my own style. As for laying it out, I started with a sketch on a computer to get the main ideas set, and then I work with some assistants to translate that onto the court using tape and chalk. We painted the main words in color using rollers. For the white drawings on the black asphalt, that’s pretty much freestyle. I made a list on my phone of all the ideas I wanted to get in there, and then I just go for it.
4. What effect do you hope these murals—or any public art you create—has on the viewer and the community?
For these basketball courts, I hope this process and the result help create a sense of ownership among the students, and a sense of pride and identity in their school and community. Every time I create something in the public sphere, I like knowing that these things have a life of their own after the paint has dried. It becomes a part of people’s lives, the backdrop to their own recess or commute or whatever, and I hope they become a source of joy.
5. You mentioned you were a basketball fan—who’s your team?
I’ve always been a Knicks fan—but after working with Kevin Durant on this project, I might have to start following the Nets!
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