Beyond Granite: Pulling Together | Derrick Adams, America’s Playground: DC

Derrick Adams, America’s Playground: DC (2023)
Constitution Gardens–East
A monumental playground that reflects the story of desegregated playgrounds in the nation’s capital

Across his work, Derrick Adams explores public spaces through the lenses of Black joy, humor, and possibility. In America’s Playground: DC, the artist offers a public artwork in the form of a fully operational playground that reflects on legacies of leisure, racial division, and transformation in Washington, DC and beyond. The playground is bifurcated by a billboard-sized image drawn from the DC Public Library’s archives. Featuring the previously all-white Edgewood Park, the photo was taken days after the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Bolling v. Sharpe declared the segregation of DC’s schools—and by extension its playgrounds— unconstitutional. According to Adams, play is paramount in this installation, but his work “transforms the playground into a site of contemplation, and remembrance.” Adams positions this historic milestone of integration in our nation’s capital as monumental, celebratory, and relevant today.

Powder-coated steel, polymer printed panel, and thermoplastic Vulcanizate (surfacing)

Studio team: Alyssa Alexander and Cobi Krieger
Project manager: Gina Ciralli
Fabricator: Playground Specialists Inc.
Photography: The People’s Archive at DC Public Library
Special thank-yous: Edgewood Recreation Center, DC Public Library, Gagosian, and Scheherazade Tillet

A Black man gazes into the camera, composed but still relaxed. He wears a black shirt with a slightly lighter black blazer and a black cap, as well as rounded black glasses. The clean lines of the frames bring out the colors in his beard: black with flecks of silver at the front. A cityscape is distantly visible in the background.Derrick Adams (Born 1970 in Baltimore, Maryland; based in Brooklyn New York; he/him/his) is an artist whose work spans painting, collage, sculpture, performance, video, sound, and public activation. He explores how identity and personal narrative intersect with American iconography, art history, urban culture, and Black experiences. Adams’s work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and other museums, and has been shown in public spaces such as Rockefeller Center and Chicago’s Navy Pier.

Follow Derrick Adams on Instagram @derrickadamsny and learn more about his work. 

Beyond Granite: Pulling Together is presented by the Trust for the National Mall in partnership with the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service and is generously funded by the Mellon Foundation.

Image Credits

  • America's Playground: DC installed on the National Mall. Photo by Steve Weinik, 2023.
  • Derrick Adams is speaking to a group with Tiffany Chung during a Beyond Granite: Pulling Together site visit. Photo by AJ Mitchell, 2022.