The Austin Chronicle

Art City Austin

To really swing and bounce around Downtown ...

By Robert Faires, April 13, 2012, Arts

Last year, it was pianos. This year, it's swings and bouncy furniture that will crop up on street corners and other unexpected places in Austin's urban core.

You may recall the wildly popular "Play Me, I'm Yours" project in April 2011, in which 15 pianos were installed in public locations around the central city, and anyone was free to play them. Well, Art Alliance Austin, which sponsored the project for its annual Art City Austin festival, was so pleased with the response that it's bringing more merriment to our mundane municipal environs, and this time, it's doubling the fun.

The Red Swing Project is a homegrown venture that arose from a University of Texas architecture class assignment to create an "urban intervention." The solution of introducing a swing into the cityscape proved to be so effective (the joy and freedom we associate with swings from childhood seems to bubble up whenever we encounter one), and cheap (with rope donated by mountain climbers and only $2 for wood and paint), that its creator turned it into a practical pursuit. For five years now, he and others have been installing red swings in select spots around the world – more than 150 in 11 countries – as a means of bringing playfulness back into the world. (They remain anonymous because they usually don't have permission to install the swings.) This weekend at Art City Austin, you can find a swing on the mezzanine of Austin City Hall and one near the entrance, but keep an eye out for others throughout Downtown.

Bubbleware comes to us from San Francisco by way of Sydney, Australia. In 2011, the Bay Area art and design studio Rebar was commissioned by Sydney's Art & About Festival to develop a modular, inflatable public furniture system for its Laneways Art series. (Local yarn-bomber Magda Sayeg was commissioned to transform a Sydney laneway last year, too.) The solution arrived at by Rebar directors/designers Matthew Passmore, Blaine Merker, and John Bela is like a bunch of beach balls stuffed inside a nylon tent and sewn shut. You can sit on it, lounge on it, even bounce on it, and since they've made different shapes and sizes by varying the number of balls inside (from three in the triad to 10 in the trilounge), several people can chill on one together. It's a playful reinvention – subversion, even – of the sturdy, staid, old park bench. You'll find Bubbleware throughout Art City Austin, after which it will be shifted to various sites around Downtown. On Saturday, April 28, a parade will transport the Bubbleware from Frost Bank Plaza on Congress Avenue to the Fusebox Festival Hub in the former TOPS used furniture warehouse, 1100 E. Fifth. Art Alliance Austin and Fusebox are again partnering on a number of projects this year, including the group art exhibition "Files Desks Chairs," at the Fusebox Hub, April 19-May 6; the night of music performance Work Related at the Fusebox Hub, Saturday, April 21, 8-11pm; and Kristin Lucas' virtual sell-off, Yard Sale in the Sky, Saturday and Sunday, April 28-29, 11am-3pm, at Jo's Coffee, 1300 S. Congress.

As usual, Art City Austin will feature work by almost 200 artists for sale, as well as nine live bands, art activities for kids, and lots of local food. The fair takes place April 14-15 – Saturday, 10am-6pm; Sunday, 11am-6pm, on West Cesar Chavez Street at Austin City Hall. For more information visit

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