Tennis Association Gives Local Courts an Artistic Touch

Marking the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open, the U.S. Tennis Association commissioned artists to transform public tennis courts around the country.

Clay? Grass? Hard court? Old news. The U.S. Tennis Association is trying a new kind of surface: an artistic canvas.

As part of a recent promotion marking the 50th anniversary of its annual U.S. Open tournament, which started Tuesday and continues through September 9, USTA commissioned artists to adorn public tennis courts with their work in five cities: Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.

The idea behind the “Art Courts” initiative, according to The New York Times, was to create energy around the sport, especially in underserved neighborhoods where the selected courts are located.  USTA commissioned artists Charlie Edmiston, Justus Roe, KiiK Create, Sen2 Figueroa, and Xylene Project to participate in the program, which helped to restore the public facilities and strengthen youth community tennis.

The association, with the help of Chase’s Return the Serve community outreach program, supports youth tennis programs through the USTA Foundation’s National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network. The refurbished courts are intended for instruction and public use, rather than regulation play.

“We aim to change lives through our NJTL network. The goal of the Art Court campaign is to ignite a national conversation around the importance of delivering tennis and street art to underserved communities,” USTA Chairman and President Katrina Adams said in an article on the foundation’s website.

The project also represents an artistic success story for the collaborating artists, who usually don’t get a chance to work with such a large canvas.

Sen2 Figueroa, who spoke to the Times about the eight courts he painted in Brooklyn, said he spent three long days working with another artist, applying paint with rollers rather than using his usual spray technique. In the design stage, the project’s organizers encouraged him to go all-in on his pop-art style for the piece.

“This was one of the most difficult projects I did in my life; but I liked it a lot,” Figueroa said. “I wanted it crispy. I didn’t do it for the money. I want people to appreciate the details.”

“Tennis is an art form,” USTA Chief Marketing Officer Amy Choyne said, “and we’re excited to merge the two disciplines as we celebrate the history of the U.S. Open while laying the foundation for our future.”

A sample of the repainted Chicago Art Courts, created by artist Justus Roe. (U.S. Tennis Association)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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