Sometimes a visit to an unfamiliar city can present unexpected rewards in the most unusual fashions. I like to think of it as a city’s chance to captivate the imagination. To trigger simple memories that tell the story of a visit through audio and visual clues. Often times it is public artwork that can bring someone to stop, look and listen, and to ultimately think about their surroundings in ways that pay tribute to the respective city and its people.
During a recent trip that my wife and I took, we found ourselves exploring an unfamiliar lakeside community that was very refreshing in its simplicity. No gimmicky bells and whistles to mention – just a peaceful, serene town that attracted people due to its laid back vibe. During a walk down one of the peaceful residential side-streets, I found myself strolling up to a giant wind bell that I had been hearing from a couple of blocks away. The bell hung at a street corner on the branch of a sizable tree. Out of all of the memories of our trip, it was this large wind bell that spoke to me – a feature that added to my vacation in ways that were very spiritual (almost like church bells in Buffalo). For me, the wind bell represented the small town, and that’s what I think of whenever I look back at our trip.
Earlier today, a friend of mine sent me a photo of a set of public art steel drums that his family had come across at the RiverWalk in Bradenton Florida (lead image). He told me that the interactive display had reminded him of my own pursuits in Buffalo – to light the spark of public art whenever possible. He said that when his family came across the drums, they were immediately captivated by the unexpected simplicity of the installation, and how the drums became a memorable feature of their vacation away from Buffalo.
So often we tend to overthink the simplest of initiatives. We must always find ways to incorporate unexpected sights and sounds into our urban vocabulary. Give people the chance to interact with cities in unexpected ways, and you will find that you can win their hearts by simply inviting them to participate in shared experiences that put smiles on their faces.