PlayAtlanta

Cynthia Gentry
  • Atlanta, GA
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About me

Founding Director, Play Atlanta (formerly 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 was 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.


Play Atlanta 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. Al is a retired and was a two-time Emmy Award winning correspondent with ABC World News. My son and his wife life in Decatur with my grandsons Hayden and Parker and two-month old granddaughter Riland. Al's older son Kris Dale and his wife Claudia live in Marietta with their twins, Wyatt and Callie. His younger son Jordan is a Journalism major at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

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

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Cynthia Gentry's Blog

Growing Our Playable Garden

I believe in play everywhere. We are slowly transforming our yard into a playable garden. 

This year we added wild flowers to the flower bed in front of the house. The number of butterflies and bees constantly getting their fill of nectar is astounding. There were a few…

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Posted on November 7, 2016 at 8:01am

Mr. Mayor, Atlanta Can Help Raise Resilient Children with Play!

Atlanta's Mayor Kasim Reed has been surprising me lately with some pretty cutting edge programs like a Department of Urban Agriculture, an Office of Sustainability, and now by…

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Posted on November 4, 2016 at 11:30am

Defining Play

Try though I may I have always found a definition of play to be elusive. It is like trying to define love. It is different things to different people. It changes. It is full of layers. This piece of paper is hanging on my studio wall. I took it from the General Comment (#17) on article 31 of the UN…

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Posted on November 2, 2016 at 10:30am

An Old Idea Becomes Radically New

Is Atlanta ready for a new old kind of playground? What if we did an experiment in which we tried out an adventure playground like they did at Governor's Island in New York? This is an incredible idea whose time came, went and is back again! Think about it.…

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Posted on October 14, 2016 at 9:00am

Saporta Report: Let’s Talk About Play

I just stumbled upon an article I wrote for the Saporta Report earlier this year before Park Pride's annual Parks and Greenspace Conference. The conference had the theme of Parks and Play: A Conversation for All Ages and it was fantastic.

 …

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Posted on September 6, 2016 at 11:42am

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GREAT PLAY RESOURCES

WATCH THIS!!

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. 

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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!

My Face Having Fun


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