Community Arts & Culture

Umstead Park Playground Surface

Mary Carter Taub
Chapel Hill, NC 


Rubber poured-in-place play surface 

Umstead Park 
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As part of the Umstead Park playground renovations, Chapel Hill artist Mary Carter Taub was commissioned through the Town’s Percent for Art Program to create a design as part of the required poured-in-place fall surface beneath the play equipment.  Taub’s design Jolly Branch was selected from a number of artists’ designs submitted and reviewed by a community selection committee in February and March of 2013.  The play surface's images of water and different leaf shapes found in Umstead Park are educational and specific to the play area environment that is adjacent to Bolin Creek.

The original Umstead Park playground was installed in the 1980s.  Over the years the play structure was damaged by repeated flood events that would also sweep away the play equipment’s sand fall surface.  The June 30, 2013 flood damaged the equipment to point that the Parks & Recreation Department decided to accelerate design and installation of the new equipment in a location further from Bolin Creek using capital improvement funds.

Taub worked with Reese Recreational Construction, LLC the sub-contractor hired to install the equipment and to implement Taub’s design into the fall surface.  After the base mat was laid down by the contractor, Taub drew the design free-hand onto the mat’s surface.  Next, the leaf shapes were broadly formed with melted recycled green plastic material.  Blue color was added and also trimmed.  Although the overall design is simplified and slightly abstracted, six separate tree and plant leaves can be identified - dogwood, sycamore, sweet gum, oak, poison ivy, and moss.  “One of my favorite parts of the Jolly Branch project was drawing on the 90’ playground to layout the design using chalk and spray paint.  It was process-oriented and felt like I was creating a temporary artwork until the fabricators poured the rubber onto the design and then it was as if a permanent tattoo had been inked onto the playground’s surface.  It was exciting to see the transformation," recounted Taub.

Mary Carter Taub is an installation artist living and working in Chapel Hill, NC. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from School of Visual Arts in New York, NY in 1994 and a Master of Business Administration from Thunderbird, School of Global Management in Glendale, AZ in 2001. Mary has exhibited nationally in traditional spaces such as the Islip Art Museum and PS 122 Gallery and non-traditional spaces such as a moving truck and an elevator, all of which housed her site-specific installations in New York. Over the last several years, Mary has shifted her focus to making public art and community-based art.  In 2013, she partnered with the Town of Chapel Hill Public Arts Office and Chapel Hill Transit to create the Mobile Mural, an artwork that fully wraps the exterior of an in-service bus.



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