When we shared in July about the Expression Swings Bernie De Koven had been instrumental in getting installed at Ellenberger Park, the response was immediate and overwhelming! Irvington loves Blue, as he’s known around town.
It should come as no surprise that Blue wanted to leave a legacy of play in his favorite place: Ellenberger Park. Bernie, the Shaman of Play, has an extensive background in studying play, publishing books, designing board and video games, and encouraging play for over 45 years!
He founded The Games Preserve in eastern Pennsylvania in 1971, where “teachers, therapists, physical educators, prison officials, clergy, people from all walks of life came to spend a few hours or a weekend exploring the world of games.” In 1978, he published his first book, The Well-Played Game. In this Tedx Ashville: The politics of playfulness, Bernie explains more of his theory on play and how “we’re all waiting for that excuse, or permission, to play.” Games for Change awarded Bernie the 2017 Lifetime of Play Award for his dedication to the conversation around play and games for over 50 years. IndieCade, International Festival of Independent Games, has recently launched an award to playful designers called “The Bernie De Koven Big Fun Award.”
Blue and his wife, Rocky, met in Israel. Later, they both taught in Philadelphia. Bernie frequently comments on the parallels in today’s educational climate and that of when he was teaching in 1965. When asked how he defends play’s importance in education today, Bernie states, “If you have to justify play, then you’re talking to the wrong people.”
Early this spring, Blue was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, prompting him to leave something for his family. His love for Ellenberger intertwined with that, and, after a few phone calls, Expression Swings were installed a few short months later in June. Now, when Blue and Rocky take their walks, they will sit near the swings and watch the “interactions between people.” He enjoys watching the individual interpretations with the swings – teens use them as a “floating gym,” and pet owners swing with their pets. You might even see yourself in thisvideo. For Blue, visitors “embrace the embodiment of play and create their own idea (way) to play. They make their own rules to make it fun.”
To learn more about Blue’s impact on the world of play, please visit his A Playful Path websiteand Deep Fun Blog , and feel free to reach out to him. He would love to share more over ice cream, but it’s always his companion who’s in for a treat!
How long have you lived and/or worked here in Irvington?
Rocky and I moved to Irvington in 2009.
What do you do for fun?
Everything I do, I do for fun, and the rest I spend trying to figure out how to share it with more people (honest and for true).
What’s your favorite walk, bike ride, block, or view in the neighborhood?
My favorite walk, of course, is around Ellenberger – the whole thing: the tennis courts, the fields, the creeks, you name it, I love it!
If you were Mayor of Irvington for a day, what would you do first?
If I were Mayor of Irvington the first thing I’d do is launch an investigation as to how it was possible that I got elected. Then I’d get those poor, delusional incompetents a better job.