I am in no way qualified to lead a multidisciplinary design team in developing an interactive installation for a city-wide festival. That was my first thought when I was offered the opportunity in May to act as Activity Partner for an installation as part of the 2014 Seattle Design Festival. But the first thing I said was “yes.”
Three days later, I presented my initial concept at the Design Rumble—a speed-dating brainstorm with creatives from all around Seattle. Whatever we created had to last for two full days. And, as the Activity Partner, I was ultimately responsible for making sure it came to life—and survived the crowds.
At the festival’s kickoff block party, nine teams comprised of architects, designers and contractors created human-scale installations, each an interpretation of the festival’s theme “Design in Motion.” My team developed and constructed an experience intended to turn passive festival-goers into collaborative artists. Using fluorescent flagging tape, the audience’s energy and movement helped us transform a pristine, semi-transparent set of letters (MOVE) into a tangible, evocative, living installation—and, by the end of day two, a wonderfully successful day-glo mess.
I’d never worked on something of this scale and at this kind of speed before. The process was challenging and, at times, a little exhausting. But watching both kids and adults playing with my team’s installation, crawling through and drawing pictures with the flagging tape, bringing an idea I’d sketched out four months earlier to life, was exciting and gratifying. The installation gave people permission to have fun in a way they don’t normally experience. While I was technically in charge, I never felt as though I had control over what was happening, but I was okay with that. I learned that in art—and life—you don’t always have to know what you’re doing. You only have to say yes, and be willing to move.