Today (Sunday March 14, 2010), San Jose’s beloved childrens’ playground and zoo, Happy Hollow reopened after a nearly two year renovation and closure. Clearly the star of the show was the installation in the entry courtyard of sculptures by Tom Otterness. “Another World”, a series of over a dozen cast sculptures installed in the entryway to Happy Hollow comes with a special coloring book. You can color it and relate your story and send it back to Tom in Brooklyn and receive a plaster sculpture back (Tom’s studio copies your book and the returns it to you). The offer is open to any age.

See my photos of the installation on flickr.

I first encountered Tom Otterness’s work in the 1983 show and catalog at Tony Shafrazi Gallery “Champions” which also featured Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ronnie Cutrone, Keith Haring, Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf and others. It was an attempt to unite this set of mid-80s New York artists, and even then, Tom Otterness was a clear outsider. (an odd aside, an instructor of mine at SVA once told me that I reminded her of Tom). This is one of Otternesses largest collections of public art (probably the largest on the West Coat), and well worth a visit. It stands as a fair substitute for the old playground fairytale exhibits at Happy Hollow (See my photos of the old Happy Hollow on flickr)

I have to admit to not being the biggest fan of the new Happy Hollow, and was quite fond of the many dilapidated playsets of the HH of old that have been retired. I think the could have managed to go more the route of Oakland’s Fairyland in keeping the old, but moving forward.

Some tips when visiting Happy Hollow.
Bring your own food. The stuff they sell is crap.
Expect the usual idiocy of any parking experience in San Jose.
There is a big area between the playground and Hallow Zoo that contains the old Crooked Man slide. Avoid this, as the house is now boarded up. No sliding will occur.
It’s not there for you, it’s there for your kids. Let them dictate how much fun it is.

UPDATE: There is a long article about the renovation in the Silicon Valley Mercury News. They also have a preview map with 360º views of the park and a collection of vintage photos and visitor memories.