PlayAtlanta

Cynthia Gentry
  • Atlanta, GA
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About me

Founding Director, Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP)

Board of Directors, International Play Association
Communications Officer and Editor, PlayRights Magazine

After 20 years working for two international consulting firms I had a classic mid-life crisis and became an artist painting murals for children traumatized by illness or war. One thing led to another (as things often do once you start on your own path) and I began developing websites for chronically ill children (www.SickleCellKids.org, etc.), and running an artists' market at a big Atlanta arts festival, and writing a nationally-syndicated landscaping television show.

The shift to play came quite accidentally. Literally. One early summer evening a violent storm erupted suddenly with a terrifying crack of lightening. I was outside talking with a friend and we ran for cover. Almost instantly there were sirens...too many sirens. The phones started ringing asking if I'd heard the news. A huge 100+-year-old oak tree fell on a car stopped in traffic in front of our neighborhood firehouse. It killed a mom and her two sons. It was my next door neighbor, Lisa, 5-month-old Owen, and 3-year-old Max. They had been in the backseat together while the dad, Brad, was driving. He was untouched.

The next six months were a blur of activity as I found myself coordinating the effort to build a playground to memorialize the family and help Brad make it through the devastating time. Working with the people of Atlanta to, first, make this huge project come together in just 3 months, and, then, put on a massive opening ceremony 3 months after that, changed my life. I had always worked with children, but the more I learned about play the more I realized that it all starts there. It took me a while to understand that it wasn't just fun and games, or frivolousness. Once I got that I was in 100%, and here I am today.

(Cutting the ribbon to open the Cunard Memorial Playground with Dianne Harnell Cohen, the then-Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, Brad Cunard, and the then-Mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin. Everyone in a red tshirt was a vital part of the Playground Committee, a dedicated group of neighbors who made the whole playground come together.)


The Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP) was founded as part of an initiative to get the City of Atlanta named "Playful City USA" by KaBOOM!, the national playground-building organization. Over the past 4 years we have worked with the City of Atlanta's Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, KaBOOM!, Park Pride, the Atlanta Public School System, Camp Twin Lakes, and many, many other groups to build more and better playspaces for our children and to educate people about play.

                  (My "baby", the wheelchair accessible treehouse at Camp Twin Lakes.)

Another  initiative is Playable10: International Design Competition. Our partner in this is the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), College of Architecture. After visiting playgrounds outside of the US, I realized how limited our vision of play and play spaces is. Our hope is that this competition will help people see how innovative and exciting playgrounds can be, and maybe get some talented designers interested in a new field, too!

The winning design for Playable1o is being unveiled by Mayor Kaseem Reed in downtown Atlanta's Woodruff Park on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. It was designed by Jeff Santos, a video game designer from Canada.

                           The winning design being installed in downtown Atlanta.


ATOP is a 501(c)3 through a fiscal partnership with Park Pride and I work as a volunteer.

I currently reside near Chastain Park in North Atlanta with my husband Al Dale and his twin children Summer and Jordan. My son and his wife life in Decatur with my grandson Hayden. Al's older son Kris Dale and his wife Claudia live in East Lake with their four month old twins, Wyatt and Callie.

Cynthia Gentry
Founding Director
Atlanta Taskforce on Play (ATOP)
Cynthia (at) PlayAtlanta.org
(404)200-1070

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Cynthia Gentry's Blog

Atlanta Will Be Extraordinary

These 21 swings line a Montreal street every year, and they make beautiful music when they move (click on the picture to see the video.) That's the kind of thing that can make a place special. 

Atlanta needs to be special. Not, "Wow, you wouldn't believe all the stuff you can buy here" special, but "Wow, when you're in Atlanta you can just feel the care that goes into everything. It's like…

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Posted on December 1, 2014 at 2:52pm

At Serenbe You Can Learn A Lot from Children If You Listen and Watch

If you talk to grownups who work in the field of play you will soon discover who they go to when they need real information ...kids. Turns out they know a lot about play (even though many don't get to play too much any more). Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with some very creative and very…

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Posted on December 1, 2014 at 9:30am

2015: The NEW Play Atlanta is Coming!

‘People who grow up in a city that cared for them are more likely to care for their city.’

An interview with Jagan Shah, Director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs, New Delhi, India…

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Posted on November 28, 2014 at 8:45am

Why is Atlanta Lagging in Attracting Graduates?

Check out the New York Times article on cities that are attracting graduates who, in turn, attract business.…

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Posted on October 22, 2014 at 7:30pm

Look at Them Looking

"Look at them, looking," he once urged me as we watched some children draw- and then he added, "their eyes meeting the world." He wished that schools, especially, would take the child as artist more seriously: "A youngster drawing is a youngster thinking, a youngster telling you a…

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Posted on October 3, 2014 at 8:48am

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GREAT PLAY RESOURCES

Watch this video to see why play matters!! 

Aqui esta en Español: 

FANTASTIC blog about playgrounds: Playscapes

 

FIND A PLAYGROUND!!

Click for the Find a Playground app to put on your phone.

Playworks 2010-2011 PLAYBOOK

Pretty much everything you ever needed to know about play.

And, of course, KaBOOM! Find a playground, plan a Play Day, how to build a playground, and much, much more.

Playgroundology, an emerging social science. 

Play Champions of the Year

Who will be Atlanta's Play Champion of the Year in 2014?

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Ethan E., our first donor

CLICK TO DONATE!

Ethan's grandmother gave him a gift of $25. He gave $20 to ATOP so more Atlanta kids will have great places to play. He kept $5 to get something cool for himself. We think Ethan is pretty cool!

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