Building Together: Why We Loved Hanging out with Alex Gilliam

We admire leaders out there who DO the difficult, hands-on work of engaging kids in artistic, practical design projects, instead of just TALKING about it. When our community partners at GreenSpaces’ Empower project sponsored Public Workshop’s Alex Gilliam to come lead Avondale Rec Center youth through one of his classic sessions, we were on board to play together: hang out, pitch in, and share ideas.


Alex is high energy, and his drive was infectious for kids hungry to experience the satisfaction of participation in a process that brings a tangible, built installation to life: something they can actually climb around on, and hang out underneath: what they nicknamed, “chill spots.” But way before the “chill spots” were constructed in front of the Chattanooga Public Library in conjunction with the wrap-up of the AIA Convention, these kids spent days getting comfortable with power tools and familiar with the collaborative process of imagining together what they wanted to build given their possibilities and limitations.


Teal Thibaud came out to join one of the kids’ building groups as they played with what shapes bore weight, and could reach the highest pinnacle. She has been impressed with Public Workshop, based in Philadelphia, for a while now, and enjoyed working and playing with a person whose mission so closely aligns with that of Glass House Collective. “The mixture of bringing some degree of vision and structure to these kids, mixed with an openness to allow them to discover and give input along the way is really key,” she says. “It’s so affirming of the groundwork Studio Everything is laying, while infusing some fresh perspective and ideas as well.”


Rondell Crier, Studio Everything’s mastermind, was out working with Alex also, and brought him into the studio at various points to meet some of the GHC kids who have been gradually learning to responsibly employ similar tools and processes, rather than just talk about abstract notions of “collaboration” and “design.” It’s been another strong reminder that our neighborhood youth are ready to lend their voices and hands at every level of the place-making process.

We echo the clear message they caught from Alex: this is your city: build it.

  • Be sure to scroll down Public Workshop’s Facebook Page  for super affirming comments about Glass House Collective and Studio Everything. Thanks Alex!
  • Browse our GHC Facebook Album displaying the process that went into designing and building the “chill spots.”


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