Outside of Beverly Hills and off Rodeo Drive, if you head east towards downtown Los Angeles, the scene dramatically changes from wide streets flanked with beautiful boutique shops, to sidewalks spilling with dingy abandoned shopping carts. Artist Ramon Coronado moved to the Los Angeles just four years ago from a small town in the desert and was shocked by the conditions he was met with in his newfound home of MacArthur Park. Spending a year in the area, Coronado was exposed to the severe lack of recreational areas for kids in the city, and disheartened by the situation these children were being subjected to. Hoping to raise awareness and provide some relief to the ailing neighborhood, Coronado started the Mercado Negro Project, a 12-week venture that dealt with reclaiming city shopping carts and transforming them into portable playground furniture for kids.
MacArthur Park, which sits near downtown Los Angeles, is an area filled with trash on the sidewalks, homeless people sleeping on every corner, and an abundance of shopping carts. Shopping carts exist all throughout the city, and have over the last few decades become as synonymous with the Los Angeles landscape as the mega-mansions and Hollywood sign that dot the hills. And in a city like Los Angeles, the number of shopping carts that appear in a neighborhood is inversely proportionate to the income of an area.
But more specifically, it was the irony of Coronado’s living situation inspired this project. Despite its intended purpose, MacArthur Park continues to hold strong to a dangerous reputation, and many children are forbidden by their parents to play in the park. They instead often resort to playing on the streets running in and out of traffic — arguably just as risky. In turn, Coronado took it upon himself to start reclaiming shopping carts to make a bold statement with them.
With the help of friends, the artist managed to create a makeshift swing that could be setup in any area for kids to enjoy, in addition to a bold lounge chair for rest and folly. Certainly fun, whimsical and practical, the impassioned project also aptly highlights an important message, criticizing the scarcity of safe recreational space for kids growing up in a sprawling urban cities like Los Angeles.