An artist put a swing on a train and the photos are delightful.
Hunter Franks specializes in what he calls “creative intervention.”
His work is a little bit … different from most artists’. It lives in the real world, where it aims to disrupt the monotony of everyday life. And the people who interact with his art are part of what makes it beautiful.
For example: He once set up a giant dining table on a freeway in Akron, Ohio, where 500 residents from different communities came together to share recipes and stories.
Recently, he found a way to inject some beauty into the drudgery of the morning commute.
Franks said he had been in talks with the folks at BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in San Francisco about having an “artist in residence” someone whose entire job it would be to liven up the transit experience for riders.
Unfortunately, the talks dwindled and nothing was done. But Franks decided that wasn’t going to stop him from trying to brighten a few people’s day.
So in August 2016, Franks donned an official-looking orange vest and declared himself BART’s official artist (BARTist, if you will).
Then he installed some simple wooden swings on one of the trains. And he had a camera on hand to document riders’ response.
“Some people were hesitant at first,” he said. But once the first person hopped on, seemingly everyone wanted a turn.
“People were just generally overjoyed to see them,” Franks said. “They remarked how it made their day so much better.”
Even though not everyone wanted to participate, the swings sure got people talking exactly how Franks had planned.
“Everyone in the car started talking to each other about how great it was. Just that opportunity for a shared positive experience can open up so many possibilities,” he said. “You can actually look each other in the eye and talk to each other and hear each other’s stories.”
The swing had to come down after a few hours, but Franks also left behind a hopscotch court on one of the platforms that he says is still there.
Franks noted that this project isn’t a criticism of BART or public transit. It’s just a gentle reminder that we’re never too old or too busy to have fun.
Franks said BART is great at getting people around, but he wanted to challenge everyone both commuters and government officials to start thinking less about Point A and Point B, and a little more about the journey between them.
“For a lot of people, the commute ranges from extremely mundane to unpleasant at times. So I was trying to think, ‘What’s a better location to insert a little bit of joy and fun and spontaneity?'”
When you think about it, you don’t need a hopscotch court on the sidewalk in order to jump over cracks like you used to as a kid.
You also don’t need to swing on the subway in order to turn to your left and ask a stranger how their day is going. If Franks is right, those little moments of joy might make a big difference in how we see the world and each other.