McDonnell has hung a big map of the city’s neighborhoods: East White Oak, Lindley Park, the Cardinal, more than 100 of them laid out in dotted lines, like a butcher’s diagram of a cow. He requested it from city staff when he was having trouble figuring out where one neighborhood ended and the next began.
“This should be on its own website,” he says. “People need to know their own neighborhood.”
Meanwhile, in his own corner of the city, they are tending their own gardens.
The Elsewhere backyard was completed on July 24 — a meandering path between terraced beds and rustic rock walls running behind the museum and parallel to Lewis Street. It’s a joint project between Elsewhere and Andy Zimmerman, who owns the adjacent buildings where Gibb’s Hundred Brewing and the Forge do business. The urban oasis came with a price tag of $20,000.
And then, down the alley to the street, McDonnell has parked another last-minute contribution to the South Elm Projects from artist Chat Travieso: an 8-by-14 trailer that’s already been sanded and weather-protected. By First Friday, it will be a parklet: a mobile public space that fits in on-street parking spaces, a bit of tactical urbanism designed to reclaim the city.
There aren’t supposed to be any parklets in Greensboro — efforts by Downtown Greensboro Inc. to establish them were thwarted by a tangle of bureaucracy and politics. But McDonnell, who secured a blanket permit from the city for the South Elm Projects, just went ahead and did it anyway.
“A lot of what I do is teach people not to be pussies,” he says. “[They say], ‘You can’t do that! That’s not how it’s done!’ And then you go and show them how it’s done. You start to realize that ‘No’ is a paper tiger.”