The Kinloch Park court is one of several projects spearheaded by Project Backboard, a nonprofit that refurbishes run-down basketball courts, primarily in urban neighborhoods across the United States, by covering them with art.
The effort began in 2014, when Daniel Peterson, a former college basketball player and employee of the Memphis Grizzlies’s community investment department, noticed that many public courts across Memphis were in need of repair. Their surfaces were littered with cracks and the painted lines, necessary to play a regulation basketball game, had disappeared with wear and neglect.
Peterson began tackling the problem by applying simple fixes himself: “At first, I was just painting black or white lines on asphalt: the three-point line, the foul line, out-of-bounds,” he explains.
Though as he discovered more dilapidated courts, and became increasingly comfortable with his materials—primarily plexipave, a paint which fills cracks as it’s applied—an idea began to emerge. “I thought, ‘I’m already out here working in these parks, so how can I add something interesting and unique to these courts that will excite the community about visiting and playing on them?”
His answer was art.
Peterson didn’t have a background in art when he began Project Backboard. “There was no one at my high school or my college who was an athlete and an artist who I could look up to—who was a model for connecting those pieces,” he says. But when he got wind that a local Memphis artist, Anthony Lee, had been commissioned by the city to design shade structures next to a court in Pierotti Park, he began to bridge art and basketball himself.