Play Passages for Press

Play Passages is a multi-stage, multi-media community art project that invites people to reconnect with their childhood memories of playing outside, to explore the relationship between play, risk, creativity, and freedom.

The stories and watercolors below were all created by regular people, not artists (I’ve also done one myself, but keep in mind that I'm a photographer, not a painter). After writing a memory, participants draw a map of its location with their eyes closed. (Drawing blind reduces the penchant for self-criticism, and allows people to let go a little and play themselves). Then, eyes opened, they flesh out their map with watercolors. 

Then I make photographs of the locations of the memories, by visiting the spot through online maps, photos and satellite images, and rephotographing them.

The first stage of the project officially launches on July 5, when I’ll be releasing the first prints and inviting more people to share their stories with me online in addition to the in-person events I'm hosting in Toronto and elsewhere. 


Winding Creek Road, Sacramento, California. 38.36° N, 121.38° W by Mindy Stricke

Map of Winding Creek Road, Sacramento, CA, by Erin Koshal

Every summer, all summer, between the ages of 4 or 5 until about 10 years old, we played in the bamboo along a creek that ran through my family’s property and through many yards in our neighbourhood.

The creek, which we called “Chicken House Slough”, was shallow and muddy. We hid in the bamboo along the banks and pretended we lived there. We made up a religion with altars and figurines made of bamboo, string, picantha berries, vines and sticks. I felt free and powerful, as if I could build a society with my friends from whatever we wanted. We made “food” in tiny cups that we got from slicing a bamboo stalk between its joints. We stalked the creek, threw berries at an angry crawdad, and snuck into strangers’ backyards. It felt exciting and illicit. - Erin Koshal

 Stillman Elementary School field, Tenafly, NJ. 40.92° N, 73.97° W by Mindy Stricke

Stillman Elementary School field, Tenafly, NJ. 40.92° N, 73.97° W by Mindy Stricke

Map of Stillman Elementary School field, Tenafly, NJ by Jordana Jacobs

There was a large section of the field behind our elementary school that I proclaimed “Beauty Land.” It was a magical place where everything was wonderful and beautiful. I plucked a leaf off a tree and ate it, because everything in Beauty Land was good. I invited my favorite boy to join me there. We had been best friends since the age of 5 and, in an earlier decree, I announced that someday we would be wed. 

My favorite boy did not want to go, at least at the moment, so I yanked him by the arm in the right direction. Another boy, a mutual friend and soured old paramour of mine, punched me in the stomach, hard. I sat on a sidewalk curb, assimilating this unfamiliar swirling pain in my gut. 

This resonates with me today. There have been times that I have decreed Beauty Lands since and have wished fervently for another to join me there and there have been those times that I found myself in grime land. - Jordana Jacobs

Hagdud Ha’Ivri Street, Jerusalem, Israel. 31.77° N, 35.21° E by Mindy Stricke

Map of Hagdud Ha’Ivri Street, Jerusalem, Israel by Hannah Wachs

One summer, my neighbour and I spent most of our time playing in a small yard behind my building . You had to walk under the building to get there (it was on pillars) past cooking gas tanks. My mother was always really nervous about me playing around the gas tanks, and and told me that I should never touch them, which made it more exciting.

In the yard there was a pomelo tree, which smelled dusty and a little rotten, probably because the pomelos would fall and the drainage wasn’t good. One day we collected pine nuts from the forest across the street and planted them under the pomelo tree. We were excited, thinking of them growing. They didn’t.

I remember the texture, the smell, and everything being a little dusty and wet, and hot and sticky. I don’t enjoy touching everything anymore. Like this feeling of being a kid and putting your hand on all these surfaces that now I find unpleasant. I often think about it. At some point I stopped liking putting my hands on everything and having this rotten smell around me. - Hannah Wachs

Ras Tanura Beach, Saudi Arabia. 26.45° N, 50.02° E by Mindy Stricke

Ras Tanura Beach by Raymond Shih

When I was 12 years old, I moved across the world from Toronto to Dharam, Saudi Arabia. I didn’t have any friends there and even getting reacquainted with my parents felt strange as they had moved six months earlier and left me with my brother, uncle and grandmother to prevent me from moving in the middle of the school year. I felt alone before, during and after the move and now found myself living in the hottest place imaginable! 

Going to Ras Tanura beach made made me feel like everything might turn out well after all. To this day, I still remember Ras Tanura as a great beach! - Raymond Shih

A garden in Burlington, ON 43.47° N 79.52° W by Mindy Stricke

A garden in Burlington, ON by Brenda Simon

I was in a garden with three to four other girls my age. There were lots of flowers and grass—soft green. It began to rain, and we danced and picked flowers. It began to pour. We got soaked, dancing and singing in the rain. We took off some or most of our clothes. We were rain fairies. - Brenda Simon

Edgewood Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY 40.98° N, 73.80° by Mindy Stricke

Bronx River, Scarsdale, NY, 40.59° N, 73.48° by Mindy Stricke

Map of Edgewood Elementary School to the Bronx River, by Mindy Stricke

When I was in sixth grade, and it was nearing the end of the school year and had just started to get warm, one of the boys told us that there was a secret rope swing down near the village, over the Bronx River. So after school all of us, boys and girls together, walked the mile and a half to the woods to see if it was true. And it was. Right there, close to the railroad station but completely hidden. We spent the afternoon swinging over the river, which was more like a creek, and had the most glorious time.

This memory felt like both the end and the beginning of something. We were all about to graduate from elementary school and head off to junior high. The playing itself was exciting yet familiar, but socializing with the boys like this felt tentative and new. - Mindy Stricke