In 2018, Lincoln Park Zoo met with community partners to co-create an opportunity for North Lawndale residents to connect with nature, the heart of the zoo’s mission. With the support of the Chicago Park District, the underutilized miniature golf course quickly rose to the top of a list of ideas that would provide a fun, active, nature-inspired community space.
Once the project was decided, 40 teens over the course of two years worked alongside lead teaching artists Eric Hotchkiss of the School of the Art Institute and Haman Cross III of Firehouse Community Arts Center to brainstorm different mini golf holes and obstacles for the course.
The obstacles were inspired by the 205 migratory bird species found in Douglass Park each year and were designed to highlight different species’ history, diet, colors, and other distinguishing features. The designs were then modeled, tested, prototyped, and brought to life in the fabrication process.
“After years in the making, it’s exciting to see our vision, imagination, and design finally come to life,” said Tiffany Tam, a Douglass 18 youth participant and artist. “The transformation of the golf course is incredible! I’m proud to have been a part of Douglass 18 and to see the community coming together to enjoy the golf course.”
The Douglass 18 miniature golf course will be open May 1–October 30 annually.
The project would not have been possible without the support of the many dedicated partners including the Chicago Park District, Haman Cross III, Eric Hotchkiss, Sheila McNary, Open Architecture Chicago, David Brown of the UIC School of Architecture, Firehouse Community Arts Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago at Homan Square, The Trust for Public Land, site design group, ltd. (site), and Lincoln Park Zoo.
Douglass 18 was made possible by a zoo supporter who provided a generous donation to spearhead the co-created project. Additional financial support was provided by L.L. Bean and Ward 24 Alderman Michael Scott, Jr.