Bland Hoke was planning a road trip from New York to his new home in Wyoming. But rather than stopping along the way to check out tourist spots and famous landmarks, the designer enlisted two friends to help him create urban workshops to innovate solutions to local problems.
With the help of filmmaker William Novak and the anonymous artist behind the Rotten Apple hacking project, Hoke documented what he accomplished along the way in a film called “Drive.”
“We looked for groups who are working on ways to improve urban environments, and decided to try to work with them on really short creative projects,” Hoke tells Fast Company. “We reached out to people in different cities and tried to more or less chart a line that went from New York to Wyoming.”
To mark the beginning of the journey, Hoke and his two friends began in New York City, working with hacktivists at Learn Do Share to transform old bike racks into chairs as well as fire hydrants into chess games on the street.
As they headed west, the three stopped in Detroit where they coordinated a project with Sit On It Detroit, a local grassroots group that outfits bus stops with built-in mini libraries.
“We helped them come up with a new bench,” Hoke says. “They told us they started with nothing, no design background, just high school shop class. We helped push the project a little bit further.”
While in the Midwest, Hoke breezed through Chicago and met up with Cooperation Operation, a nonprofit that turns vacant land into educational and empowerment projects, to help create a community posting board out of scraps that had been thrown away. The group also worked their way through Milwaukee, as well as an impromptu stop in Omaha to help kids on an art project.
“Sometimes you can plan these journeys, and take a bunch of time and try to make it perfect, but sometimes serendipity is the best thing,” he says.
Hoke partially funded the project through a Kickstarter project initially intended for Softwalks, an urban intervention for construction sites. Due to city regulation and permit challenges, Softwalks was unable to launch successfully, which is why Hoke used the funding for “Drive” instead.
“I could have just packed up the car, drove, and got to where I was going,” Hoke explains. “But we had the chance to do a creative project. I think it’s wonderful to travel across the country and find like-minded people who are working on really interesting projects.”
Hopefully “Drive” will inspire more Americans to take on a more creative way of road-tripping.