GoDaddy Q&A with Project Backboard founder Dan Peterson

Slam dunk for stronger communities

This post was originally published on April 13, 2019, and was updated on June 10, 2019. 

GoDaddy is honored to partner with Project Backboard founder Dan Peterson for our “Make the world you want campaign” — empowering makers to change your world if it doesn’t quite fit you.

It all started with a few lines and some paint. When Dan Peterson, a former college basketball player and coach, was in Memphis, Tennessee, he noticed the neighborhood basketball courts were missing a vital component: lines. No three-point lines or free throw lines. So he started to paint them. This lead to a bigger idea: partner with local artists to revive the run-down basketball courts in their community.

He started the non-profit Project Backboard in Los Angeles and now crisscrosses the country to create beautiful, colorful courts in big cities like St. Louis, Missouri. And big brands are taking notice: Xbox and Enterprise have both teamed up with Project Backboard recently on courts.

Not only does Dan Peterson bring people together locally — his online presence helps him do so worldwide.

You have the power, we have the tools. Make the world you want, and share it with everyone.

GoDaddy Q&A with Dan Peterson: Basketball meets art

GoDaddy Project Blackboard Dan Peterson Shooting Hoops

This interview has been gently edited for clarity.

GoDaddy: Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit into this world?

Dan Peterson: So when I was growing up as a kid in New York, there wasn’t really any examples of people who were interested in basketball and art. There were no models that you could look to, to kind of say, “oh, I can do both.” And so as someone who always enjoyed art, but loves basketball, it didn’t really feel like I fit in any particular category all the way.

I think on some level, I pursued the basketball side and kind of left the art side behind until I started Project Backboard. Then I was able to bring them both together into one thing.

GoDaddy: What kind of world do you want to live in?

Dan Peterson: I want to live in a world where families are active together, where people, meet community members in public places for … whether it’s for basketball, or for picnics, whatever it is you do in the park. I want to live in a world where that’s a regular part of everyone’s life, [where] that sort of interaction with strangers and neighbors is an everyday occurrence.

GoDaddy Project Backboard Dan Peterson Colorful Background
With Project Backboard, Dan Peterson has combined his passions for art and basketball to help build stronger communities.

GoDaddy: How are you making the world you want a reality?

Dan Peterson: Through Project Backboard, I’m really trying to encourage the sort of behaviors I want to see in the world by creating reasons for people to visit parks — by creating a magnet that’s going to draw people in. And, as they start to experience that sort of community engagement, feel like they’re welcome in the public space and to return again and again, and even deepen in their community ties and turns those strangers into neighbors.

GoDaddy: Why is this so important to you?

Dan Peterson: Bringing people together matters to me, because, I think, when you start to think beyond yourself, and you start to think about your neighborhood as one big community, you start looking after your neighbors in a different way.

GoDaddy Project Blackboard Dan Peterson Putting Down Painters Tape
“The art we put in basketball courts and parks, it makes the park busier,” says Project Backboard’s Dan Peterson. “And by extension, it becomes cleaner, safer and more inviting for families, young women and girls.

GoDaddy: What was your inspiration?

Dan Peterson: I grew up playing outdoor basketball in New York. I kind of took great public parks and vibrant public life for granted. And in Memphis, I realized most public parks didn’t have basketball lines.

So, it really started just by painting lines on courts.

 

And it wasn’t until I came to a court where an artist had already had sculptures next to the basketball court and I asked him to pick out just the colors for the lines. He ended up coming up with a scheme for the entire court surface — that the idea of putting art on courts, you know, really was a thing.

Just from that one experience, having seen the way it changed the way people interacted with that park, and the way they engaged with the neighbors differently, is was an idea that I felt was worth pursuing.

GoDaddy: You’re also a dad. How do your children inspire your work?

Dan Peterson: I would not say they inspire my work, but I am hopeful they can grow up in a world where they feel they can be an athlete and an artist instead of having to choose one or the other.

Dan Peterson with Kids on Basketball Court

GoDaddy: What roadblocks have you come up against?

Dan Peterson: Most parks departments aren’t used to having this type of intervention. And even though I use the same materials — same methods that they do with their court renovations — we just put the color down differently.

It’s still something new.

 

When you’re a public institution, and charged with maintaining space for everyone, sometimes it moves slowly.

GoDaddy Project Blackboard Dan Peterson Working On His Laptop
“If it weren’t for my website, I might still be just painting lines on basketball courts in Memphis,” Dan Peterson says. “Project Backboard would not have grown or expanded the way it has.”

GoDaddy: How does it feel to be a part of our #maketheworldyouwant campaign?

Dan Peterson: When I first heard from GoDaddy, I was excited about it.

This campaign is about all the things that I experienced — through starting Project Backboard, creating a website for the first time, creating an Instagram for the first time, and just a lot of figuring stuff out on my own.

It felt really close to my experience and something that I was happy to encourage others to do.

GoDaddy: What other makers inspire you?

Dan Peterson: Makers — people who are shaping the world they want to see — inspire me through some of the artists that I work with … taking down worn basketball nets and turning them into fine art. Things like that — just little steps people can take to improve their community is, to me, really inspiring to see. It’s something I’d like to see more of.

GoDaddy: What advice would you give people out there with a dream?

Dan Peterson: The advice I would have for anybody who has an idea — has a vision — but hasn’t yet pursued it is, No. 1, to start. And, No. 2, don’t have any expectations.

Go into it willing to let it take you where it’s supposed to go. If it takes you in a different direction, follow it.

I would encourage anyone with an idea or a vision to pursue that vision and to share their pursuit, whether it’s through social media or a traditional online presence.

I feel like the more positivity we put out on these various platforms, the more positivity that will come back.

Many thanks to Dan Peterson for sharing his story. Be sure to check out the Project Backboard website and follow Project Backboard on Instagram.