GOOD Maker Finalist: Swings Tampa Bay Puts a Whimsical Spin on Community Building
All it takes is a rope swing—and a few curious passersby—to turn a patch of shade under a giant tree into a playground. In Tampa Bay, Florida, there are more than 100 handmade swings scattered across the city and its surrounding communities thanks to Reuben Pressman and Hunter Payne of Swings Tampa Bay, an organization known locally for its experiments in urban recreation and “spontaneous community building.” If you’re lucky enough to spot one of their calling cards, don’t be too shy to stop and play. We think Swings Tampa Bay, a top-three finisher in the Brookside Foods Giving Back Challenge on GOOD Maker, is onto something.
Pressman and Payne created their first swing as an environmental design project at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg. “We wanted to get the attention of classmates walking along the pathway to our classroom," the pair says. "Our goal was to challenge their perception of a familiar environment and encourage them to engage with each other and enjoy the present moment.” They’ve preserved this spirit of community in each of their installations, which locals can find everywhere from pedestrian overpasses to the inside of the Roosevelt 2.0 gallery in Tampa.
Swings Tampa Bay also enlists the creative talents of the community for their “Let’s Paint Swings!” parties, which brings new and old friends together to design masterpieces of their own. Today over 1,000 swings have received a fresh coat of paint and been made ready for the open air. And next month, Tampa residents will be treated to a studio show featuring 75 swings, plus a custom-made swing set, personalized by resident artists at the Creative Clay Cultural Arts Center.
What’s the next experiment for Swings Tampa Bay? While the paradox of “spontaneous planning” is not lost on Pressman and Payne, they say locals can keep their eyes out for another installation built for two: a see-saw. They can also expect to find buckets of sidewalk chalk around St. Petersburg for a project inspired by pavement poets like Peter Kageyama. Residents will be invited to doodle a message to the city or leave behind something original, uplifting and unexpected for others to read. “Tampa Bay will grow stronger as a community as we encourage each other to spontaneously step out of our daily routine,” Payne says.
Want to learn more about Swings Tampa Bay? Visit swingstampabay.com for information about their upcoming whimsical ventures.
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