Buffalo has been turning a corner in recent years, thanks to a significant influx of refugees. Families from Syria, Somalia, Bhutan, and Iraq are filling vacant houses and setting up shop in empty storefronts, notably on the city’s west side. Still, their largely low-income neighborhood lacks essential public space. In a vacant corner lot, however, a circular hot-pink swing set has not only become a new amenity but an unlikely symbol of unity.
The swing set was created by local designers Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik as part of a gallery-sponsored competition to activate empty city lots with a temporary work of public art. The duo was interested in combining play with the political nature of circles, a configuration that evokes everything from ancient talking circles to roundtable discussions. But ultimately, says Jamrozik, they wanted to create a lively place “where the kid world and adult world could come together.”
The installation is spare—a circular steel frame with seven seats—but, according to Jamrozik, this “mixture of familiar and unfamiliar makes it approachable.” Since it was installed last fall (a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and other organizations covered its $5,000 construction costs), the community has embraced the swing as an ad hoc landmark and as a place to play. In the afternoon, children from a neighboring school—where students speak 44 different languages and hail from 70 different countries— rush to the swing to collectively reach giddy new heights.