An ongoing pandemic, insurrection in the nation’s capital—for some, 2021 might just feel like the other side of the 2020 coin. JUMP may not have a cure for the wintertime blues, but Giggling for Good, the latest exhibition to grace its park, looks a lot like treatment.
“What better medicine is there than giggling and laughing, you know?” said JUMP Community Engagement Director Kathy O’Neill.
Drive down Ninth Street and the changes are visible: large smiley faces everywhere, laughter piping out of the speakers mounted around the campus and the JUMP-o-tron blasting dad jokes. (In JUMP fashion: “How did the farmer find his wife? He tractor down.”) Later, it will blast child-comedians as they drop their own punchlines. The nonprofit appears to have a near-bottomless supply of inflatable lawn toys, and this time around, it has deployed a pair of winking yellow smiley face balls to guard the entrance to the park.
Though the indoor portions of the facility have been closed since the onset of the pandemic, the ground floor-facing windows have been decorated from the inside to fill out the theme. Mannequins in oversized, flashy pantaloons suspended by safety-orange suspenders, more inflatable smiley faces and still more signage peer out at the public from behind the floor-to-ceiling windows. “Due to social distance guidelines, we will no longer be shaking hands,” one of the signs reads.
The commitment to humor is more than skin deep. Head to JUMP’s social media accounts, which include Facebook and Instagram, and find daily jokes and doses of humor, often from kids, who are encouraged to record and submit their own jokes—just head to jumpboise.org for more details. Young people are at the center of the effort, and people are encouraged to donate school and home supplies.
“Kids are in dire need of some of the basics,” O’Neill said. “We tied our Giggling for Good into an underlying good deed by collecting those items, which we’ll then give to the Boise School District.”
JUMP began its life as one of the most distinctive elements of the Boise skyline, but since the start of the pandemic, during which it has closed its monumental facilities, it has increasingly leveraged its 3 ½-acre park into a space where people can gather and interact with JUMP’s activities safely. Circumstances have forced the staff to think outside of the box, and even as the world looks forward to a still-remote day when facilities might reopen, don’t expect JUMP to lose the lessons it has learned about making the most of its space.
“Creativity takes a long time to pull those pieces together, but we’re finding our rhythm,” O’Neill told Boise Weekly. “We’re just on a roll right now trying to figure out what to do next.”