People's Liberty grants $10,000 for The Percussion Park

When drummer and percussionist Ben Sloan saw a video of a drum set made from paint cans, buckets and other reused and recycled materials, he decided to create his own version.
“I thought it would be cool to construct a drum set using these materials and techniques, and put it in a place where it would permanently live for people to use,” he says.
The Percussion Park will be located in a 12-foot-by-12-foot plot in a vacant lot at the corner of Warsaw and McPherson avenues in Price Hill, less than four blocks from the MYCincinnati firehouse. Sloan teaches percussion and electives to kids ages 5-10 at MYCincinnati, and thought his project would tie in nicely to a program that already exists.
“Having The Percussion Park in a neighborhood where there’s already a relationship with students seemed like the right idea,” he says. “It’s a natural extension of what’s already happening.”
Before applying for a grant from People’s Liberty — and qualifying for one — Sloan took his idea to Price Hill Will. They’re working with Keep Cincinnati Beautiful on Vacant Lots: Occupied, which includes restoring the lot at Warsaw and McPherson. In his PL grant, Sloan made sure to identify that The Percussion Park would be installed in that lot.
“I thought it would be a cool feature for the development of this vacant lot, and it just seemed like all of the stars aligned to make it happen,” he says.
Sloan dug the foundation for The Percussion Park last week, and will be pouring the base in the next few weeks. Final installation is scheduled for March.
“It’s really going to be a sensory overload, with so many different things to try,” he says, explaining that users will crank or strike objects to produce a sound or tone. “It’s going to be interactive and engaging."
The Percussion Park will feature slap tubes made out of different lengths of PVC pipe and metal that when slapped with a hand or paddle produce different pitches. A bass marimba will have a much lower range than the typical marimba, which mimics a piano.
Sloan is hanging old oxygen and propane tanks, which will produce long, sustained tones when struck. He’s also working on creating drums from wooden boxes that will have slits cut out of the top. Another feature will be bicycle parts that when pedaled will generate a noise or rhythm.

Sloan envisions The Percussion Park as a community outreach tool; the lot will be a symbolic gathering place that belongs to the community. He also plans to use it as a resource for teaching at MYCincinnati, incorporating it into classes and lesson plans, as well as using it for popup performances.
“I really hope The Percussion Park is a fun and exciting place for people to go and play music and connect with each other,” Sloan says.
Twice per year, eight grantees are chosen per grant cycle to prototype solutions to civic challenges. Project grantees are supported with $10,000, a launch event and access to People’s Liberty’s workplace and mentorship. Stay tuned to Soapbox for profiles of this year's 15 other grantees.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Caitlin Koenig.

Caitlin Koenig is a Cincinnati transplant and 2012 grad of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She's the department editor for Soapbox Media and currently lives in Northside with her husband, Andrew, and their three furry children. Follow Caitlin on Twitter at @caite_13.