Platforms in the Park and the Summer of Connections

Today we celebrate a milestone.

A month ago today, we met up with Xfinity and the Chicago Parks District for a special rendezvous in Revere Park. That night, we officially brought Platforms in the Park into the world.

Starting with that first event, “Pride in the Park: A Celebration of Chicago’s Queer History,” we’ve engaged hundreds of people across Chicago in a social activation like no other we have attempted before. In the month since, the platforms have been used for everything from guided meditation and live hip-hop performances to morning yoga and poetry.

“People are thirsty to express themselves, “ Loraine Edwalds, treasure and member of the Artemis Singers (an all-lesbian chorus that performed at the kick-off event on June 26), said. “When people just listen to what they hear in public media or on the radio, they don’t feel like their voices are heard.”

Making the voices of every Chicagoan heard was the primary purpose for Platforms in the Park, from the moment that Wendy Abrams (a member of our Brain Trust) brought it forward this spring. With this mission front-of-mind, we coordinated with communities partners from around the city to address a range of topics: Chicago’s queer history, the future of entrepreneurship, healing urban prisoners of war, just to name a few.

At our Platform event at Nichols Park in Hyde Park with Pride ROC, we explored stories of pain and healing in ways that many never had before—and it was evident in the end. The mix of new ideas in familiar, intimate spaces made it clear that these platforms were going to create an unique atmosphere of curiosity and growth.

“This will be an experience you’ve never had before,” Ra Frye, Founder and Director of Pride ROC said after the event.

At its core, the Platforms in the Park initiative is about manifesting the unexpected, the spontaneous, the impromptu. Even with something as seemingly traditional as story time, which we explored in Pasteur Park with Open Books and the Chicago Poetry Center, an unanticipated rainstorm can lead to an unplanned musical/poetry experience.

And even when the ideas being shared come from the city’s most established movers and shakers, like Sarah Grueneberg—the owner and chef at Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, who showed us how to take the pressure off summer entertaining in a cooking demonstration on the Navy Pier—the free extension of this expertise to local neighborhoods has created a bonded sense of community and proximity.

“I think community events that are open to the public with no charge are so important to bring us all together,” Grueneberg said. “I love the idea of being able to come to the park and sharing what I love. That’s why I’m here.”

We still have a few more events coming up for Platforms in the Park, including a deep exploration of Chicago’s 1919 race riots with After School Matters at the DuSable Museum (8/1, 5:30PM), and a full on block party in Dougals Park (8/2, 6pm) that will explore the tapestry of factors that goes into giving a place its character and feeling.

Got an idea for an event you’d want to host on a platform? Send a note to and we’ll help you promote your program far and wide!

To build on the momentum of The 77 Project, this summer, in partnership with Xfinity and in collaboration with the Chicago Park District, we’re presenting Platforms in the Park, a city-wide initiative to empower, connect, inspire, and activate all of Chicago through local, community-led experiences.

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