In a way, it’s a digital version of musical chairs, except that unlike the old kids’ game that knocks people out of contention, “The Musical Swings” art installation brings people and places together, in literal harmony.
After several days of assembly, Montreal troupe Daily Tous Les Jours was set to open Musical Swings Thursday morning ) in a vacant lot at 534 Clematis St., its backdrop a nature mural recently completed by artist Eddie Mendieta. It is scheduled to open for free public use through March 6.
At its heart is a 10-swing set, whose seats have sensors that link to a computer that responds to motion with music. Swing alone and you’ll hear notes. Synchronize your swinging with those beside you and you make beautiful music together.
“It’s just an amazing piece,” said Sybille Welter, coordinator of West Palm Beach’s Art in Public Places program, who reached out to the group several times over the past year to convince it to make the city the first of four where Musical Swings will be installed this year. The others are still in negotiations.
A Knight Foundation grant covered about half the $151,000 cost to bring it here. West Palm is one of 26 communities previously designated by Knight to receive grants focused on on improving livability.
The city’s public art program chipped in $35,000 and the Downtown Development Authority added $15,000 in cash and the rest in in-kind services.
The concept got its start in 2010 in Montreal, where Daily Tous Les Jours was located between a concert hall and a science building. In the science facility, a professor was working on collaboration between animals.
“That’s what provided the inspiration,” said Fady Atallah, an adviser to the group. That, and the thought that swings bring people of all kinds and cultures together. “Swings became the instrument by which we allowed people to communicate.”
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey caught wind of the work and narrated a video about it, helping put the group on the map, Atallah said. It became “life before Oprah and life after Oprah,” he said.
The idea is not just to make music, he said, but “really to bring people together who maybe wouldn’t otherwise get together and collaborate.”
And the idea also is to bring people to a public place “that maybe has lost its history, or where people are not aware of its function as a public space,” he added. Part of the project will involve the group collecting data to measure the installation’s impacts on the public space.
That’s why the overgrown lot on Clematis was chosen, rather than, say, the waterfront, Welter said. “They wanted really an intervention and the ownership of reclaiming a space, and they wanted something very different.”
The installation will be open weekdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and weekends 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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