York’s new chess boards ‘all about connecting the community’

The boards aren’t just a place to play chess; they’re colorful pieces of artwork helping to unify York.

Written by: Anthony Machcinski
Richard Craighead (Photo by Anthony Machcinski, Our York Media)

Richard Craighead’s dream of a York scattered with chess boards took a step toward becoming a reality when three chess boards were bolted down recently in Continental Square.  

The boards – each made of a slab of concrete mounted on a large steel base – aren’t just a place to play chess; they’re colorful pieces of artwork helping to unify York.  

“It was all about connecting the community,” says Richard, the head of Inclusive Arts Movement York. “We could make something easy and fun that people of different backgrounds can enjoy and start building relationships with other people they don’t know.”   

Chess teaches children creativity and helps older adults battling Alzheimer’s, Richard says, and it has personal life benefits, too.  

“It’s more than just a strategy game,” he says. “In life, you can’t just jump spontaneously into any situation. Chess is about thinking and thinking things through.”

Come down with a set of pieces and sit there, and I’m certain someone will want to come up and play with you.

Richard Craighead

The three boards in Continental Square are all decorated by local artists – Rita Whitney, Ophelia Chambliss and Kenneth Husband – and because of the materials used, they’re incredibly durable. 

The pieces are currently kept in the I-ron-ic² coffee stand and correspond with the boards, but that shouldn’t stop others from bringing their own chess pieces and playing a game.  

The goal, Richard says, is to put more boards in common places throughout the city like Cherry Lane, the bus transfer station and Penn Park. He hopes to find artists that will decorate them in respect to the environment around them.  

The boards cost about $850 to make, with the majority of that going to the steel that’s used as the base. The first three boards were sponsored by Ryan Davis, Kenneth Husband, and McCallister & Myers Real Estate. He hopes to find other sponsors for future boards.  

Richard wants everyone – from chess newbies to hardened veterans— to use the boards to meet new people.  

“Be open enough to play a game with someone new,” Richard says. “Come down with a set of pieces and sit there, and I’m certain someone will want to come up and play with you.”  

Story made possible by the YorIt Social Venture Challenge Grant

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