Project Backboard: where art and basketball combine to transform a St. Louis neighborhood
24 March, 2021
Update: LaChance's basketball court mural was voted the winner of the Arts and Education Council's Arts Madness: Bracket Challenge in 2021. Learn more about the bracket challenge here.
It’s not often that an artist uses a 175-foot basketball court as canvas. But that’s exactly what artist William LaChance has been doing for the last three months in Kinloch Park thanks to a collaboration with nonprofit Project Backboard.
Project Backboard is the brainchild of Daniel Peterson, who started the organization while living in Memphis when he noticed the courts he played on didn’t have lines.
So he took it upon himself to start painting the lines. That effort eventually grew into Project Backboard, a nonprofit that partners with local communities and artists to transform public basketball courts as a way of strengthening and inspiring neighborhoods.
“I figured I’m already working in the court, painting the lines,” said Peterson. “If I could partner with an artist to come up with the court design, then it can really be something interesting, something unique for each community, something that they can really rally behind and love.”
Earlier this year, Peterson got connected with the St. Louis County Parks Department and they selected Kinloch Park for a St. Louis-based project. Peterson then reached out to LaChance, whose abstract work he said is “perfect” for transforming the basketball courts.
LaChance then worked with Peterson to create a design specific to Kinloch Park.
“I wanted to create something huge and colorful like a big garden,” he said.
Both Peterson and LaChance are quick to note the neighborhood residents have welcomed them and the project with excitement – and paint rollers in hand.
“A lot of times coming into someone else’s park as an outsider, it’s easy for people to be wary, but the folks in Kinloch [Park] have been very open and accepting,” Peterson said. “They’ll bring in their own paint supplies and rollers saying ‘It’s been a long time since we’ve had anything like this. What can we do to help?’”
Peterson hopes the project can serve as a catalyst for more positive change in the area and encourage the neighborhood residents to get involved.
“The response has been great and the potential for it to move beyond just a basketball court here is real,” he said. “If we had just made a court and put the lines down and left, they would have used it, but they wouldn’t have been involved at all. The art part of it opened it up to people more.”