How to Build a City


Have you ever wanted to build a city but all you had was a cardboard box and some paint? Not to worry. This summer at the Poetry Center we decided that we wanted to bring Harlem into the Children’s Area… so we built it!


Paint the walls.

Tucson muralist Joe Pagac came to the Poetry Center one Saturday afternoon with a couple of helpers. Using an overhead projector and some white and black paint, they brought the African National Memorial Bookstore to life on this wall.


Find some wallpaper!

We had some cool brick wall paper for the wall. And what’s a brick wall without a fire escape? We used wire, tissue paper, mod podge and paint to make a fire escape with plants on it! We hung it from the ceiling using plastic cord.


Make some cardboard forts!

We cut up an oversized television box and used duct tape, glue, wood slats and wire to put it back together again so that it could be covered and crawled into. There is probably a right way to do this but we just… found a way.


Paint a bodega!

What do you see when you’re in Manhattan? Bodegas! We found photographs of a bodega (small corner grocery store) and a famous jazz club and used a projector to paint the front onto the boxes. All you need to do is trace the lines and paint them in with black paint. As for the projector, I just saw an old school overhead projector for $31 on ebay!


White wash!

We wanted it to feel like a building inside, not a cardboard box. So we painted the walls white.


Jazz it up!



We poked holes into the cardboard fort walls with a screw driver, then drew stars, painted them with bronze paint and put Christmas lights through the holes. Then we put a record player into the jazz club. And some colorful flags into the bodega.


Stay tuned!

Soon we will furnish this city with more fun activities. But we hope you are inspired to build your own city at home! And feel free to stop by the Poetry Center to check out ours.