Hopscotch Detroit seeks to bring community-building to the city

Courtesy of Ed Morykwas
Buy this photo

By Marie Tysman, For The Daily
Published September 25, 2012

University alumni hopped their way to fame last weekend in Detroit, where they helped break the world record for longest hopscotch course.

Courtesy of Ed Morykwas
Courtesy of Ed Morykwas

The project was initiated by Wedge, a design firm based in Detroit and founded by four University alumni in May 2012. Wedge works primarily with artists and new designers, along with some non-profit groups that seek high quality designs at low costs.

Beginning last Tuesday, groups of 25 volunteers spent four days creating the hopscotch course that spanned 4.2 miles. The course started in Campus Martius Park and hopped through downtown Detroit to Gullen Mall, Wayne State University’s equivalent of the Diag. Volunteers used homemade cornstarch-based chalk paint and stencils to create squares along the sidewalk, adding about a mile to the course each day and eventually surpassing the previous world record length of 3.4 miles.

Wedge collaborated with Imagine Detroit Together, a Detroit-based community-building organization, to develop the program.

While the original goal of Hopscotch Detroit was to beat the world record and bring positive attention to the struggling city, it grew into something much more, according to University alum Laura Willming, a co-founder of Wedge.

“Our goal really became getting people out in the streets of Detroit creating, collaborating and bringing different communities to one common space,” Willming said.

University alum Dylan Box, another co-founder of Wedge, explained that a key part of the program was bringing out the community’s creativity, and hosting an event for people to enjoy the art.

“One of the good signs for me was walking down the street and seeing random people hopping — kids and adults,” Box said. “We saw one woman who was eight months pregnant in heels and hopping.”

University alum Ajooni Sethi, also a co-founder of Wedge, said the project was also part of the Detroit Design Festival, noting that the particular type of community-based design work transcends logos and websites and is dedicated to city improvement.

Sethi said the program creates connections and opportunities for recreation without changing the physical attributes of the sidewalk.

“That is the power of design,” Sethi said. “It re-designs the way we look at something to improve and highlight the resources in Detroit.”

The world record was broken on Saturday, which was celebrated at an event on Gullen Mall. Professional artists worked with children to extend the course, using hundreds of boxes of chalk and chalk paint. Playworks — a professional recess program — came and facilitated four square, jump rope and hula hooping events for children throughout the afternoon.

The paint — a mixture of cornstarch, water, flour, sugar and tempera paint — will last three to four rains before washing away.

Box was considered the chief “chalkologist” and explained that the homemade mixture was the best solution and better than spray-paint or spray chalk because it didn’t use aerosol.

While the group was forced to re-paint an entire mile and a half of the course after a night of heavy rain, Sethi said she was inspired by the event and thought it was a great success.

“It took so much more effort, time and commitment than we thought, but the experience was amazing,” Sethi said.