Ho’n A:wan Community Park

Organization and community: Zuni Youth Enrichment Project (Zuni Pueblo, NM)

In 2015, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project, in partnership with Zuni artists, worked to plan and design a space that supported a broader set of psychological and social needs beyond physical activity. They sponsored over 30 community planning meetings with more than seven stakeholder groups including parents, elders, park neighbors, artists, cultural leaders, Tribal Council, and program administrators. The artist committee was at the forefront, listening to the community’s desires for a park that imparts lessons to Zuni youth about their identity and origins, and translating this input into an innovative park design that accentuates the Zuni Pueblo’s rich cultural heritage through the ingenuity of Zuni art forms.

Ho’n A:Wan (“of the people”) Community Park, opened in September 2018 and is a safe, nurturing space that supports the physical and mental wellbeing of Zuni youth and their families. In a community where kids used to play on uneven ground littered with bottles, stands a 2.5-acre park with a full-sized soccer field, commercial kitchen, community garden, walking trail, classrooms, and amphitheater. Furthermore, Zuni art and culturally affirming designs permeate the space with murals, traditional coyote fencing, and traditional wooden beams (known as vegas). Daryl Shack, a member of the artist committee, proudly described children gazing up at the murals of the Zuni’s origin story and sharing what they know with each other. He explained that children who do not always have stable homes now have a place where they can find mentors and develop a commitment to themselves and their culture because “the park has given the children a place to call home.”

Furthermore, in a community that has not been traditionally engaged in development processes, co-creating something drawn from the power of Zuni’s culture and seeing the tangible result has shaken up the community’s sense of what is possible and what they can do.