Economic and Social Impact Analysis of The Musical Swings in West Palm Beach
The Community Land Use + Economics Group, LLC Philadelphia, PA | Arlington, VA | cluegroup.com A collaboration with Surale Phillips, Decision Support Partners, Inc.
TABLE OF CONTENTS ASSIGNMENT
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: KEY FINDINGS
NUMBER AND GEOGRAPHY OF VISITORS
SOCIAL IMPACTS: QUANTITATIVE
SOCIAL IMPACTS: QUALITATIVE
OTHER OBSERVATIONS AND IDEAS
ABOUT CLUE GROUP
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? “It changed my day. It helped me remember that spending time with my friends and my family is important. When I was on the swing with my daughter I remembered that this is what life is about – taking time away from social media, even though we took pictures! Sometimes you get so wrapped up in social media and think about who is looking at you. Here you really don’t care.”
ASSIGNMENT Daily Tous Les Jours (DTLJ), the Montreal-based artist collaborative that created the Musical Swings, has initiated a tour of the Swings to four American cities, beginning with a one-month installation in West Palm Beach, Florida from February 4 to March 6, 2016. DTLJ has been interested in quantifying the experience of the Swings from the project’s inception: For example, the Swings themselves were designed to collect data on the number of people who sit on a seat and how many “swings” they take.1 In embarking on the current tour, DTLJ and the Knight Foundation (the major funder of the tour) wished to quantify other aspects of the Swings’ impact, including their contribution to local economies during a temporary installation, and the extent to which the Swings influence or generate social interactions and collaboration. DTLJ and Knight hope to study the economic and social impacts in each of the cities on the current tour, West Palm Beach being the first. This work was conducted as a collaboration between Surale Phillips of Decision Support Partners and Josh Bloom of the Community Land Use and Economics Group. We developed a research plan and outcome metrics (see Appendix) that would yield quantitative and qualitative information – information that could measure impacts and also provide insights to help DTLJ in its future work. We relied on our own experience in measuring downtown economies and cultural audiences, and also on recent research in the use of playgrounds as an analogue to the Musical Swings.2
Data on counting swing cycles from a 2014 Colorado installation of the Musical Swings is presented at http://www.dailytouslesjours.com/blog/2014/07/17/counting-swing-cycles/. 2
“Understanding Playground Utilization,” New Yorkers for Parks, 2013. http://www.ny4p.org/research/otherreports/PlaygroundUtilization.pdf.
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today?
Working with DTLJ’s principals, we established the following research goals:
“I feel peaceful. My son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoyed swinging. It is hard to find activities for him to do. He liked it.”
Measure the number of people who interact with the Swings, including people who swing and people who observe; Measure the economic impact of the temporary Swings installation; Understand why people come to the Swings and how they hear about them; Learn whether and how the Swings stimulate new social interactions or collaborations; Learn whether and how the Swings change people, such as their mood, their outlook, or their day.
METHODOLOGY We collected data on three representative days during the one-month installation of the Swings.3 Based on what DTLJ wanted to learn, we used three data collection tools.
Counting. We counted people entering the site (including sidewalk observers who took a sustained interest in watching) and we counted people who swung. (We did not count people who just walked by on the sidewalk or barely glanced at the Swings.)
Intercept surveys. We surveyed a random set of people within the Swings site and people who observed from the sidewalk for a sustained period. We collected 274 paper intercept
Data collection was conducted on Thursday, February 18; Saturday, February 20; and Sunday, February 21. Counts were taken for 15-minute intervals on the hour, over the course of seven to eight hours each day. During this time, we had two or three workers on-site at a time. Prior to the opening of the Swings, we made several 15-minute “baseline” counts of foot traffic on the sidewalk in front of the pre-Swings site (then an empty lot). The Swings were open to the public 12 hours per day, from February 6 to March 5. For counting, we used palm-held manual “clickers.” We made several assumptions: That Thursday daytime traffic was representative of an ordinary weekday and Thursday evening traffic was higher than a typical weeknight because of “Clematis By Night” (a regular downtown event). We assumed other weeknight traffic was similar to Thursday daytime traffic; we assumed Friday evening traffic was similar to Thursday evenings. While weather was a factor we could not control, we had the “benefit” of experiencing afternoon rain showers on Sunday afternoon – and many people continued to visit and use the Swings. Rain showers are common in the Florida climate and we assumed that, by using counts taken during the Sunday showers, we were sampling during a “representative” weather event, as well.
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? “I love the swings. Everyone in my office has swung and loves them. They put a smile on my face.”
surveys, which were data-entered into SPSS and Excel. We surveyed teenagers and adults (but not young children). The survey instrument is included in the appendix.
Interviews. We conducted 42 short interviews with people on the site. Interviews typically lasted two to five minutes. We mostly interviewed adults and older teens, but we also interviewed a few young children. The anonymous interviews were recorded (with permission) on a handheld digital memo device and later transcribed.
From interviews: “I made different sounds when I was swinging and then I was like, what just happened? It changed and there was this melody going on but I don’t know how that happened.”
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: KEY FINDINGS USA G E
Roughly 34,000 people visited the Swings.
About 48% of visitors came to the Swings intentionally. (Others discovered the Swings as part of some other visit to downtown West Palm Beach or by chance.)
About 78% of Swings visitors came from Palm Beach County, of which 35% came from West Palm Beach. The remainder came from elsewhere in Florida, elsewhere in the U.S., and foreign countries.
Swings visitors closely paralleled the income distribution for Palm Beach County households as well as the racial/ethnic makeup. While the Swings drew participants from all age groups, visitors were substantially younger than the population at large.
About 46% of the visitor parties included children.
“They are here for just one month? Doesn’t that break your heart?”
The Swings were busy almost all of the time. User turnover ranged from 16 to 156 swingers per hour.
“We came here specifically for the swings. He and I have been here a couple of times so we wanted to bring our friends and we had dinner first down here.”
Most people stayed longer than they anticipated.
The Swings increased foot traffic on the block by 56% over baseline and drew people to linger in the area who had never visited this end of Clematis Street before.
The location and ambiance of the Installation area/location appears to have a strong influence on how people find out about the Swings, why they choose to go, and how long they stay.
“The only think that I have seen is basically the kids taking turns. The people who seem to be interacting on the swings are the ones that come together.” “The word that I have been using the most [to describe the Swings] is ’magical’.”
E CO NO MI C I MPA CT
Visitors to the Swings generated $768,900 in direct economic impact in downtown West Palm Beach. About 48% of that impact came from visitors who came downtown specifically to visit the Swings.
The total estimated taxes paid on the pre-tax value of spending by visitors was $45,300.
Indirect economic impact created by the Swings is estimated to be $1 million to $1.4 million.
A W A RE NE SS /I NSPI RA T IO N /DI SCO URSE
The Swings generated an enormous amount of local buzz. More than half of Swings visitors heard about the Swings through word-of-mouth or social media. About one-third had seen the Swings at some point and returned to visit.
Almost a third of the Swings visitors reported talking with someone they didn’t know while at the Swings. We observed people talking about how much the loved the Swings, how fun it was to swing, and how great it was to have them in the city.
When asked what the Swings experience left people thinking about, swingers generally said that they were left feeling happier, calmer, less “stressed out.”
Nearly everyone interviewed or surveyed was keenly aware of and attracted by the musical component of the swings. However, less than 25% reported intentionally collaborating with someone (friend or stranger) to try to change the melody. Many others said they noticed the changing melodies but did not understand why it was happening. When we explained the “collaborative element” in interviews, most people were pleasantly surprised, although they did not discover it on their own.
One noticeable but not necessarily documentable impact was the cooperative vibe in the Swings site. People shared swings, getting off and on to let others have a turn. They watched their “stuff” while taking swings. People “pushed” to keep children or friends going and helped the inexperienced get on an off. And not once in three days did we encounter any negative or aggressive behavior exhibited by Swings visitors. The joy emanating from the space was palpable. Page 7
A T TI T UDE /E NJO YMENT /PRI DE
The Swings were a big hit. Almost 90% of visitors said they would tell someone about them and almost three quarters would return to swing again.
We observed some people with ambulatory barriers observing and listening to the music.
Visitors looked for information to provide context about the Swings, the designers, and the city’s role in the installation.
Emotional response is often used as a key indicator of social impact and the Swings produced a lot of observable and documented emotion response. At nearly all points in a day, including moments of rain, the site was alive with laughter and conversation along with the music. People described the experience as happy, calming, therapeutic, peaceful, and “awesome.”
The Swings promoted city pride. Many who were surveyed or interviewed spoke of how excited they were that West Palm Beach was one of the first of US cities to get the Swings. Nearly everyone we spoke to felt the Swings – and activating civic spaces – were worthwhile city initiatives.
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? â€œMade my whole day - not just the music, but how it brought people together.â€?
NUMBER AND GEOGRAPHY OF VISITORS We estimate the total number of visitors to the Swings over the one-month period to be 34,151 people. This estimate is based on representative samples taken on a typical weekday and weekend, with allowances for estimated differences on other weekdays.4 The average size of a visitor party was 3.7 people, but party sizes varied widely, from individual visitors to a party of 28 people. Several groups were in the 14 to 16-person range. About 46% of parties included children, almost always with adults. While we did not survey young children (who were always brought by an adult), we did survey teenagers. We estimate 7% of parties consisted of teenagers under age 18, not accompanied by an adult. Total estimated visitors (over period of installation) Average size of party Average number of children per party Parties with children
34,151 3.7 2.4 46%
The Swings were busiest on weekends and, especially, on Saturdays. Saturday traffic averaged 163 new visitors per hour, about 2.5 times the average hourly visitors on Thursday daytime (64 per hour). Sundays averaged 133 new visitors per hour. We know from observation and interviews that some people returned to the Swings two or more times over the one-month installation. (From observation, we know that a few families returned in the same day.) All people who entered the site were counted, even if they were return visitors.
Total reflects net visitors to Swings above baseline sidewalk traffic.
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? “I feel more relaxed. I love the murals and I love the swings.”
NUMBE R O F SW I NGE RS We estimate 26,450 people tried the Swings over the one-month period of the installation. A few factors influence this number:
Many people took two or more turns on the Swings. If someone got off a swing and walked around and then returned to swing, we counted each turn, even if they did not leave the site.
As a result, the number of swingers in any given hour could theoretically exceed the total net new visitors in the same hour. (This was not typical, but it did happen over three measurement periods – during weekday daytime hours, when the site was less crowded.)
Based on surveys, about 79% of those who visited the Swings site tried the swings themselves (or they planned to). Based on our observation, the actual percentage of visitors who tried the Swings was actually higher because many of the swingers were young children who were not part of the survey sample. We observed regular turnover: the number of swingers per hour ranged widely, from 16 to 156. Weekday daytimes averaged 76 swingers per hour; Saturdays averaged 100 swingers per hour. We made a few other qualitative observations:
People using the last set of swings (at the rear of the site) tended to swing for the longest period of time. Some people stayed on the Swings for an hour or more. Young adults (late teens to 20-somethings) tended to swing longer than older adults. We observed mothers and fathers with babies swinging for extended periods with resting babies in arms. Even though some people took very extended turns on the Swings, people waited patiently for open swings and most people were mindful to share the swings with those who were waiting.
BA SE LI NE FO O T T RAFFI C The Swings site in West Palm Beach was an empty, private lot, so there would be little reason to be on the site itself prior to the Swings installation. Several nearby vacant storefronts are both a reason and an indicator that this portion of Clematis Street sees less foot traffic than the blocks to the east. The Swings accounted for a 56% increase over typical foot traffic on Clematis Street.
Foot Traffic (people per hour) -
Baseline: Avg hourly foot traffic
With Swings: Avg hourly foot traffic
For a baseline reference, we took six, 15-minute sample counts during ordinary weekdays and ordinary weekend days and nights prior to the Swings installation. Baseline foot traffic on the sidewalk in front of the vacant lot averaged 140 people per hour on a weekday and 237 people per hour on a weekend, or 168 people per hour over the course of a typical week.
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? â€œMy husband and I were just having a pita sandwich and then...the music was like a magnet. I had to walk over here and see what's happening...wow! I can't tell you how pleased I am by this beautiful arts project adding joy and togetherness and helping regentrify this side of the tracks!â€?
VISITOR ATTRIBUTES DRA W A REA Most visitors to the Swings were regional: 78% live in Palm Beach County, of which 35% live in West Palm Beach. Another 8% live elsewhere in Florida (outside Palm Beach County), and 8% live elsewhere in the US. Five percent of survey respondents live outside the US (about half from Canada). Because we did not survey non-English speakers, the actual number of foreign visitors was probably slightly higher. Where do visitors to the Swings live? 50.0% 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0% West Palm Beach
Elsewhere in Palm Elsewhere in Florida Beach County (outside of PBC) (outside of WPB)
Out of state
Outside of US
Palm Beach County
Area of detail
West Palm Beach (City)
I NCO ME Because 78% of Swings visitors live in Palm Beach County, we used US Census data for the County as the reference group for demographic comparisons. The median household income for Palm Beach County is $52,878, just slightly lower than the median household income for the US of $53,482. (For additional reference, median household income for West Palm Beach City is $45,027.)5 Swings visitors closely parallel the income distribution for Palm Beach County households, with the exception of lower-income households: Only 21% of Swings visitor households fall below $35,000, compared to 33% of County households. (We asked visitors to report their income in bracketed categories in order to provide privacy, so it is not possible to calculate median household income for Swings visitors.)
Source: US Census: 2010-2014 American Community Survey.
Household Income Swings visitors | Palm Beach County 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Less than $35,000
$35,000 to $49,999
$50,000 to $74,999
$75,000 to $99,999
$100,000 to $149,999
$150,000 or more
AGE Using Palm Beach County as a reference point, we compared the age distribution of adult visitors to the Swings with the age distribution of adults in the county, in order to see how closely Swings visitors reflect the general population. (The survey included teens but not young children, so this comparison does not include the distribution of children in the County.) Overall, visitors to the Swings were significantly younger than the county population: 85% of adult Age Swings Visitors | Palm Beach County 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 18 to 34
35 to 54
55 to 74
75 or over
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today?
visitors to the Swings were under 55 years old, compared to 47% of adults in the county. (Because the survey asked for age brackets rather than exact age, it is not possible to calculate the median age of Swings visitors. For reference, the median age for Palm Beach County is 43.9 years old – significantly older than the US median of 37.4.)
“I was here at the swings last month with my girlfriend. I'm obsessed! Combining a childhood joy with music is just too much fun. The musical swings put me at ease and remind me of childhood.”
A note on older visitors to the Swings: Based on our on-site observations, we know that a significant number of people over 75 years old visited the Swings and we surveyed several of them. However, only one respondent (0.4% of survey sample) in this age bracket showed up in our tabulations. We assume this is because most older respondents skipped the age question on the survey.
RA CE A ND E T HNI CITY Visitors to the Swings were relatively diverse. While most visitors were white, we observed many black/African American visitors, as well as several ethnicities, including Hispanic/Latino visitors and East Asian/Indian visitors. We charted race and ethnicity alongside Census data for Palm Beach County. It would appear that white and black visitors had lower representation than the county (by 9% and 11%, respectively). But there is something else at work here: The Census defines Hispanic or Latino origin as “ethnicity,” not “race” (one can be any race and Hispanic or Latino). But all persons who checked “Hispanic/Latino” on the survey checked that box alone – no Hispanic or Latino respondents indicated a race. Therefore, the 19% of respondents who selfidentified as Hispanic or Latino are presumably a mix of white and black individuals. If they had also checked a race, the white and black ratios would likely very closely match the county’s. Race and Ethnicity Swings Visitors | Palm Beach County 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% White
Some other race Hispanic/Latino
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? “Yes, [I feel] gratitude and love.”
ECONOMIC IMPACT We focused on direct economic impacts of Swings visitors on downtown West Palm Beach, including spending on restaurant dining, lodging, retail, and related things. Local spending impacts include profits, wages, business-to-business purchases, taxes paid to local jurisdictions, and others. The visitor surveys asked respondents how much they spent or expected to spend in downtown West Palm Beach, in several purchase categories, while visiting the Swings:
Eating/drinking Shopping Overnight lodging Other spending
Dining and lodging, in particular, have more local economic impact than retail because service businesses pay a larger portion of their revenues as wages. Spending data from the surveys, combined with visitor counts, allowed us to estimate the economic impact of the Swings over the one-month installation period.6
Some notes on methodologies and sources of error: We relied on the assumption that survey respondents’ spending reports were accurate. However, the question asked respondents to include money they spent or “expect to spend” in downtown during their visit, and it is hard for anyone to know how much they will spend in the future – even if it is in the same day. In our verbal instructions, we asked respondents to answer the question as best they could and to enter “0” if they did not spend anything. Still, 25% of survey respondents left the spending question entirely blank. (We assume they chose not to answer the question either because it was too much trouble or because they did not spend anything.) If a respondent entered an amount for any spending category, but left other categories blank, we entered their response for the blank categories as “$0”. (For example, if a respondent reported spending $20 on “Eating/Drinking”, but left the “Shopping” and “Lodging” lines blank, we entered their response for “Shopping” and “Lodging” as $0.) If a respondent left the entire spending question blank, they were not included in our spending-data averages.
Did your experience at the swings have an effect on your mood or outlook today? “Yes, if only for a little while I had pure enjoyment (without worrying about the rest of the everyday ‘crap’.”
DI RE CT E CO NO MI C IMPA CT S Visitors to the Swings spent an estimated total of $768,900 in downtown West Palm Beach during the one-month run.7,8 The 48% of visitors who said they came to the Swings intentionally (as opposed to those who may have stumbled upon them or who came as part of another visit to downtown) accounted for $369,000 in total spending. We tabulated responses to calculate average spending per visitor-party, by product category: Spending category Eating, drinking downtown Shopping downtown Overnight lodging9 Other10 Total
Average spending per party $59.53 $17.32 $4.57 $1.87 $83.30
Eating or drinking downtown was by far the most common purchase: 67% of all visitor parties reported spending on eating or drinking.
This number is based on average spending (all purchase categories) of $83.30 per party per Swings visit, total visitors of 34,151, and average party size of 3.7 persons. 8
Because the survey question asked about spending in downtown, we assumed 100% of reported visitor spending was captured in West Palm Beach. 9
Because most Swings visitors were local, most parties did not spend anything on lodging, but for those parties that did use lodging, they spent a lot. For visitor parties that spent more than $0 on lodging; their average spending was $303.00. 10
Reported spending under the “Other” category was most commonly “parking.” Responses also included movies, ice cream, green market, beach, and photography.
What did the swings leave you thinking about? “How precious life is and to always remember to be thankful because life is beautiful.”
Restaurant meals and hotel accommodations are considered to be “produced” where they are consumed – i.e., in West Palm Beach. For retail purchases, it is standard practice to subtract the cost of goods not manufactured locally.11,12 Accounting for the cost of retail goods affects the total amount of goods and services considered to be produced in West Palm Beach and yields a total of $688,895 of local production:
Eating/Drinking Shopping (i.e., “retail”) Lodging Other spending Total value of local production
Total visitor spending $ 549,468 $ 159,895 $ 42,208 $ 17,272
% local production 100% 50% 100% 100%
Estimated total local production ($) $ 549,468 $ 79,947 $ 42,207 $ 17,271 $ 688,895
T A X RE VE NUE S The Swings generated sales, use, and lodging taxes for the County and City. Sales and lodging taxes paid are presumed to be included in visitor-reported spending. We imputed the net price to calculate taxes collected. The lodging tax rate is 11% and we assumed 6% tax on all other goods and services. The total estimated taxes paid to local governments (based on the pre-tax value of spending) were $45,313.
From “Approaches to Estimating the Economic Impacts of Tourism” by Daniel J. Stynes, Ph.D., Michigan State University, 1999. 12
Products like restaurant dining and lodging are generally assumed to be “produced” where they are purchased, even though some components of the final product may be produced elsewhere (e.g., the raw ingredients for the restaurant meals). For retail sales, the cost of goods is not considered part of local production, unless the retail item is manufactured locally. We estimated the net local production of retail sales at 50%.
I NDI RE CT E CO NO MIC I MPA CT S What did the swings leave you thinking about? “Tranquility, music and harmony.”
Indirect impacts of visitor spending are many – and they are real – but multipliers for calculating indirect impacts vary widely by geography and business sector.13 The multipliers for indirect tourism impacts typically fall in the range of 1.5 to 2.0, but any errors in multiplier assumptions become more pronounced in the resulting data. We decided to let the direct impacts stand on their own, but most visitor spending recycles through the local economy and, in turn, supports businesses and jobs not directly patronized by Swings visitors. Based on a total estimated local production value of $688,895, we conservatively estimate indirect economic impact created by Swings visitors at $1 million to $1.4 million.
Indirect impacts include things like a restaurant manager who deposits her paycheck at a local bank, indirectly impacting a local financial services business and the jobs and investments it makes – even if no visitors used the bank.
SOCIAL IMPACTS: QUANTITATIVE W HY SW I NG S VI SI TO RS CA ME DOW NTOW N For almost half of the visitors surveyed, the Swings was the main reason they came to downtown West Palm Beach. Smaller portions of visitors came for shopping, dining, entertainment, or work. Reason for coming downtown 60.0% 50.0% 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0% Work
HO W PE O PLE HE A RD A BO UT T HE SW I NG S Visitors learned about the Swings through multiple communication channels, and were asked to report all the ways they had heard about them. Most people heard about the Swings by walking or driving past (at some point in time), through social media, or by word of mouth.
What did the swings leave you thinking about? “All the stress I had left and I was just thinking how I now had nothing on my mind. A much needed break from college classes.”
How visitors heard about the Swings 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0%
T HI NG S PEO PLE DI D W HI LE A T T HE SW IN G S Most people who visited the Swings tried swinging themselves, and most people watched others swing. (The watchers may or may not have swung themselves.) Seventy-one percent of people reported that they “noticed when the swings made a melody.” However, through our interviews we learned that most people did not discover the connection between collaborating with a neighbor and initiating a melody. In post-interview conversation we learned that people did not notice the sign explaining how collaborating influenced the musical sounds. A remarkable 30% of visitors reported talking with someone new while at the Swings – most certainly a greater percentage of interaction with strangers than occurs on a public sidewalk, for example. Still, most people who used the Swings swung individually or with their own party; 9% reported collaborating on the Swings with a stranger.
What did the swings leave you thinking about? â€œHow they made the music.â€?
"Did you do any of the following?" 100.0% 80.0% 60.0% 40.0% 20.0% 0.0% Tried the Watched Noticed Stayed Talked with Invited Worked Worked swings (or while others when the longer than I someone someone to with with a plan to) were swings were had planned new swing someone I stranger to swinging making a to know to make a melody make a melody melody
T HI NG S PEO PLE SA ID T HE Y PLA NNE D TO D O A F TE R T HEI R SW I N G Almost 90% of visitors said they planned to tell someone about the Swings, and almost threequarters said they would return. We observed many people using social media at the Swings site, and 63% of visitors said they planned to post the Swings to a social media platform. Things people planned to do 100.0% 80.0% 60.0% 40.0% 20.0% 0.0% Tell someone about the swings
Come back to swings again
Post the swings on social media
Many people we interviewed asked how they could follow the Swings on social media or learn more about the artists.
What did the swings leave you thinking about? “How awesome swings can be.”
SOCIAL IMPACTS: QUALITATIVE We conducted 42 short interviews at the Swings, each lasting two to five minutes. Our interviews were relatively free-form (we often asked a subject to elaborate on a response or we asked a follow-up question). We started with a set of five scripted questions, though we didn’t pose all five questions to all subjects. People were very eager to talk about the Swings (an experience that is not always true in other research projects we have conducted). Almost no one declined an interview. 1. What brought you here today? [To understand motivations for coming] 2. Can you tell me about how the Swings affected you?
Did they change your day? (How?) Did they change your outlook? (How?) Did they inspire you in any way? (How?)
3. Can you tell me about any interactions you may have had here today? Did you come alone? with family? With friends? Other people you didn’t know before?
Did you experience any kind of collaboration? In what way? Did you talk to anyone you did not know? Is that typically your experience or different from your typical experience?
4. When you tell people about The Swings, how will you describe this experience? Why might you tell them to come check out The Swings? 5. Do you think The Swings would be a good idea to bring to other cities? Why?
SUMMA RY O F Q UA LI T AT I VE RE SE A RCH
Regardless of whether people visited the Swings intentionally or just happened by, the experience of the Swings was overwhelmingly positive. People left smiling, laughing, snapping photos, and expressing how happy they felt. Most people referred to the impact of the Swings as calming, beautiful, joyful, and therapeutic.
People interviewed were quick to express their appreciation of the installation and the elements of joy and playfulness the Swings brought to downtown. When they discovered that the installation was temporary, many expressed disappointment that they were not permanent and asked what could be done to keep them in West Palm Beach.
Many people interviewed commented on the diversity of people using the Swings, particularly the vast range of ages of the people enjoying the experience.
Everyone interviewed said that they would recommend the Swings to other people.
While everyone interviewed noticed the music and considered the music to be a vital component of the experience, few discovered the element of synchronicity and its influence on the sound.
Most people interacted with others around them – sharing swings, chit chatting while they were waiting for swings or managing groups of children, but there was little “swinging together,” outside of one’s own group.
The following transcriptions are representative excerpts from our interviews.
I NT E NT I ONA LIT Y “We all came in from the Acreage area, me and my four kids. We had something else we had to do nearby so we just decided to do the swings too and make a day of it down here. We home school so it was great to be able to come and experience an art installation.” “We go to school at Dreyfoos so we’ve been back here a couple of times. There has been a lot of buzz around our school since it’s an arts school.” “We didn’t even know they were here. We are down here for the concert. But I love music so we stopped in. We first saw the lights under the swings from across the street and were like, what is that? So we came over to investigate. We thought it was for kids, but then we saw all these other people.” “Our intention was to go to the green market but because the swings were so close we parked up here to do both.” “We came down here for the swings. I saw it on line. I live in Miami. One of my good friends posted it on Facebook. I come to this part of Clematis all the time but I did not know this was here. I couldn’t wait to be a child again!” “I heard about them word of mouth. I’ve seen them all over Instagram and Snapchat, everywhere. And I was like, what in the world is this? And I was at my regular coffee shop and my friend and I decided to go check it out. “ “We did come here specifically to swing. We were on a tour bus of Palm Beach a few weeks ago and we passed by and couldn’t get off. So we made a specific trip here to have lunch and to go on the swings. We live in the Delray area.” “We were just walking by and heard the music.” “I saw a picture posted in Instagram and she wrote something and I had seen it on the news and really wanted to go! I’m here with my little one and my friend and I are having even more fun on the swings than he is.”
“We came here specifically for the swings. He and I have been here a couple of times so we wanted to bring our friends and we had dinner first down here.” “We were on the trolley and we saw it so we walked back with the kids. The whole area in general was really appealing. I thought it was a regular swing set, but this is a really neat idea.” “I saw it when they were building it and I had no idea what it was so I posted it on snapchat. This is so cool.
I MPA CT ON O UT LOO K AND I NSPI RAT IO N “I’m just happier. It’s something about the music.” “You are never too old to swing. Where are my grandkids when I need them?” “I think people seem happier when they enter the space. I’m here with my kids but I have seen lots of adults coming in and having so much fun. There was this one lady who sat down and had fun just figuring out how to swing again after so many years. It’s really sad, we are so lost from these memories. This brings them back.” “You leave so much happier than when you came. It like anchors your day. To see all the little kids enjoying it and hearing the music. It’s just great.” “I did try to make music. It is different keys – what’s the pattern? We couldn’t figure that out. But I feel refreshed, especially after teaching a long day. It is very relaxing.” “This sounds so cheesy, but I am a man – very much a man. But when I got on the swings I felt like a giddy school girl. I could not help but smile. With the keys and the swinging back and forth. I was having a fantastic day, but somehow it got exponentially better.” “I made different sounds when I was swinging and then I was like, what just happened? It changed and there was this melody going on but I don’t know how that happened.” “I’m here with my daughter and we told her it would be something fun and she’s definitely having a good time with her friend.” Page 28
“Yes, it has a huge outlook on our day. It is so calming, although we a swinging and it’s kind of like a playground it is the most calm thing. My friend was having an awful day and we came to get some stress relief and we both left in a better mood.” “I love it. Something about the experience of swinging along with the music and the murals. It is very relaxing.” “It brought a smile. Who doesn’t like to swing? It’s very relaxing.” “It brings back childhood and I really like the swings. I think it’s the music that makes it relaxing and brings back that happiness from childhood.” “It changed my day. It helped me remember that spending time with my friends and my family is important. When I was on the swing with my daughter I remembered that this is what life is about – taking time away from social media, even though we took pictures! Sometimes you get so wrapped up in social media and think about who is looking at you. Here you really don’t care.”
T HE A CT I VIT Y O F SW I NG ING A ND INT ERA C T I N G “We came here with our grandkids but we didn’t really interact with anyone else here. But we did notice how the music changed with the lower notes and they get higher, the higher you swing. It was like I tried to keep swinging higher to change it and then we tried to swing together, but we couldn’t manage it.” “There didn’t seem to be much interaction between groups and most people seem to be here in groups. The kids interacted with each other but there weren’t many other kids here. We kind of wanted to get a picture of all of us on the swings, but you also don’t want to interrupt someone else’s experience. I think it’s all effected by the time of day you are here, the weather, and all of that.” “It saw that the different kinds of colors were different kinds of instruments. It seems like the pairs tend to try to swing together, but when someone else gets on nearby and starts swinging that adds another depth to it and they are like, oh cool!”
“We noticed the different instrument sounds and were trying to figure it out, like the progression, and if it makes a melody. I wanted to see if they were the same on each set of swings. I went a little faster to see if the music would go faster. I wanted it to do more.” “We noticed how the height and momentum changed the notes. We talked to a few other people watching around and the kids taking the pictures, and the kids who gave up their swings for us.” “We just swung solo next to each other and I had a conversation with myself to be mindful and connect with my inner child.” “I didn’t really interact with anyone except the people I came with. I noticed the change in the music when you go higher. I would tell people these were good.” “I didn’t really pay attention to swinging along with others, but now I know that it does something different, I will have to go back. I did notice that as I was swinging it changed and I wondered why, but I really didn’t know. I felt like I had something to do with that, but I didn’t know what. It was too incredible of an experience to really think too hard about it.” “We were paying attention to the sounds, but we didn’t really try to do anything specific. I was hearing it doing more than one note, but we didn’t really know what was making that happen.” “If you go at the same time they make really different tunes. So we went at the same time and it sounded like a song, then it sounded like a bell and then something else. Then we just split apart. We just swung together [me and my brother]. “ “I was paying attention to when the sounds would have a certain pace and then all of a sudden you would here the notes going down the line and it becomes so much more just in that moment. Then you find yourself waiting for that to happen again.” “We didn’t swing in synchronicity. I went solo. It was every woman for herself.” “I was on a swing next to two little kids, and I tried to match their swinging because I read the sign. But for a split second we made it work. But they kids weren’t really into it.”
“We were here in the middle of the week and it was really quiet. You could hear the melodies when you swung together. It was just so peaceful. But on the weekends it’s a lot busier and you don’t notice it as much. There should be rule that there should be no talking when you are here!” “We really didn’t talk to other people, but we did share swings. And we traded turns so other kids could get on. I think everybody here has met someone else at some level.” “I’m here with my girlfriend and we interacted with a father and his two boys. They were so excited about it. I didn’t swing, but my girlfriend did.”
W HY SHO ULD O T HERS G O ? “I would tell people that it’s fun and it’s therapeutic. We parked and you could hear it drawing you down the street. I appreciate the sound a lot. I did not know what to expect with the sound.” “It is a great experience to get out and do something different outside of your routine. It’s people of all ages which is the really cool thing. “I would say it’s a very good place to spend 15 minutes or a half hour especially if you have kids.” “I would tell people it is something they have got to experience. It’s very unique. If I were by myself, I would come here for the therapeutic effects of it. It’s just so relaxing. “It’s kind of hard to explain it to people. The word that I have been using the most is ‘magical’. I even got my mom to come with me and now she’s telling people that they have to come and swing. It’s so calming.” “I would tell people to come because I’ve never seen anything like this before. This is only temporary, right? I wish it wasn’t. I wanted to share it with people because it’s almost too hard to describe. I’ve been Facetiming people while swinging just to show them how awesome it was.” “They just make me happy so I keep bringing people here.” “I would tell people that it’s fun, musical and interactive. It’s a great way to feel like being a kid again but without being overly supervised. That’s the thing that took me most by surprise. When Page 31
we first got here I was like where is person in charge? Who regulates how long we are on the swings and who comes next? And then I realized it was just open and I thought, well this isn’t going to work. But it does! I don’t know if it has to do with the music, or what, but it’s nice to see people sharing.”
I MPA CT ON T HE CITY “They are here for just one month? Doesn’t that break your heart?” “I think a lot. I’m trained as an architect so I really appreciate the space that has been created here in the city. It’s amazing but it’s too bad that it is just a month. “I’m going to be so sorry when they go!” “It’s an art installation and you’re making music and playing. It’s playful and fun and interactive. That’s a really cool thing. It makes me want to walk around this area now. I’ve never been to West Palm Beach and it makes me want to explore. I live in New York. I always just come in and go straight to Palm Beach Gardens or Jupiter. I never come to West Palm Beach. So now I see it differently. It’s very interesting that there is a cultural aspect here that is interesting.” “It’s a great idea to have these in the city. When I look at this city and in my age group (20s) we are very centered around places like this area of Clematis Street and this coffee shop. The fact that it is so close and it adds something to this culture is incredible. It touches on parts of your mind and your feelings and what you enjoy. It’s just incredible.” “I think they should do more things like this again. I think it brings lots of tourists and more families down her. Bring them over here instead of down by the water so they can see there are things over near not just nothing on the other side of the railroad tracks.” “For sure cities should bring these in. This was just dead space here and now not only are people coming here to enjoy the swings, but like us, they are going to go out to get something to eat and whatever. It’s the whole area that gets to benefit from this. The people I’m with are from Wellington and they don’t come down here much. Now they are more likely to come back here. Even after the swings are gone, people who don’t come down here usually - they see all the wall art, and they swing, and see how cool it is here. They are going to be more likely to come back.” Page 32
OTHER OBSERVATIONS AND IDEAS We made a number of other observations and ideas that do not directly fit under the main assessment topics of this report. We are including them here, mostly as points for future consideration. Several elements influence usage and experience of the Swings. We believe It would be worthwhile to compare these elements across the US city sites to inform guidelines for future installations or to provide partners with ideas for how to generate the most impact from the project.
O BSE RVA T I ON S FROM W E ST PA LM BEA CH + I DEA S F O R F UTURE SI T E S
Provide more guideposts or prompts: Most people didn't naturally discover how synchronicity plays a part in the experience. Many people noticed the music and called out the importance of the music to their enjoyment. But, when people swung together and the music changed, they generally didn’t understand why or how the change happened. (And that might explain why they did not try to Swing in synchronicity with others around them as much as we thought they would.) We observed that many people glancing at the signage, but not reading the smaller print explaining how the Swings changed notes.
Make a BIGGER sign: If more visitors had read the explanatory signs, we believe it would have enhanced their experiences. We recommend making a BIG sign and placing it somewhere within the site, rather than on a wall. We suggest including a section on all signs titled, “Things to Try,” and to include a suggestion to try swinging synchronously with someone else to see what happens to the music. Our experience with interactive and contemporary arts projects underscores the importance of providing people with guideposts – not necessarily instructions – or a framework for considering the experience or interact with the installation. The guideposts help visitors uncover what they otherwise might miss.
Provide more handouts: Many visitors asked our survey team if they had printed information they about the Swings, the designers, or social media about the project. Very few people found the post cards that were placed in the “parklet” (the sitting area at the Page 33
curb). At times there were no postcards available in the parklet. Occasionally, we moved postcards to the wall signs and people took them.
Site layout affected user experiences: The set of swings in the rear of the West Palm Beach site showed the least turnover in users. Some people stayed on these swings for a full hour or more. Tucked in the back with the bench on the side and no entry point on that end of the lot made for a different experience than the swings closest to the street, which seemed to be the busiest and have the most turnover.
Site enhancements (especially the “parklet” and the murals) augmented visitors’ experiences: The art work on walls of the site was considered by many people to be part of the Swings installation and contributed greatly to the overall experiences. And the parklet installed in front of the site provided a good resting spot for visitors and observers.
Impacts of physical location: The location of the Swings – in downtown West Palm Beach, yet on a slightly-less-traveled block – had a significant impact on how they are discovered and, presumably, on their volume of use. This may vary significantly across future sites. Understanding site dynamics could be very useful for future projects.
Amenities: Because there was a lot of waiting and observing, consider installing the Swings near a café with outdoor seating or other businesses with outdoor activity. Or, continue with the installation of parklets or temporary site seating. People tended to talk to others while waiting for Swings rather than when on the Swings.
Distractions: Avoid installation sites where the Swings are near a bar or store that blasts music onto the street. (The bar across from the Swings in West Palm Beach hosted a quizzo game with amplified announcements in the late afternoon which disrupted the musical experience.)
Rules: We love the rules (e.g., “Don’t stand, Don’t jump, Be good”). We suggest adding, “Take turns” to encourage awareness of those who may be waiting for a chance to swing.
I DE A S FO R FUT URE A SSE SSME NT S
Surveying and counting changes the atmosphere at the site. We learned quickly that we wanted to minimize our interference in visitors’ organic experiences of the Swings. (For example, on the first day of our work many people came up to us and asked how they could sign up to swing or asked if they needed a ticket.) We immediately changed our approach by removing our name tags and putting our clipboards inside a bag so as not to stand out as “official”. We recommend that survey teams wear casual attire and no name tags, conduct their work discreetly, but have information available regarding their credentials if asked.
Surveyors, while objective in their research, can serve as ambassadors for the site. They should all have post cards to hand out that include information about the artists and the hashtag for the project.
One supervisor and two surveyors on-site is best. We found that four team members made us too visible and was too many for the size of the space.
The number of swingers provides information on user turnover, but not on economic or social impact, and may not be as important for future assessments. Continue to count visitor parties to the site, but not necessarily swingers and observers.
For additional economic impact data, the City’s economic development department (or the local downtown management group) should survey merchants in the vicinity of the Swings to gather comparative relative-sales data (by percentage increase or decrease) from the same one-month period in the previous year. This could be collected by email or interviews.
The open-ended survey questions duplicated (to some extent) the quotations gathered during the interviews. In future surveys, we recommend changing the open-ends to ask for “three words” that come to mind to describe a visitor’s experience of the Swings or the effect the Swings had on the visitor’s mood or outlook. As text data, the three-words answers could be illustrated as “word clouds” – a graphically engaging tool that is wellsuited to this purpose.
Adding “social media sharing” to the survey as a quantifiable indicator of social impact.
ABOUT CLUE GROUP The Community Land Use and Economics Group (CLUE Group) is a small, specialized consulting firm, founded in 2004, that helps community leaders create vibrant commercial centers and sustainable economic development. We work with local and state governments and nonprofit revitalization organizations to develop practical and innovative economic development strategies, cultivate independent businesses, identify regulatory and financial barriers, and strengthen development management programs. CLUE Group provides a broad range of market analysis and business development planning services, including:
Retail sales gap analysis Business mix strategies Economic benchmarking District marketing and promotion strategies and measurement Economic and fiscal impact analysis
CLUE Group’s personnel have over 40 years of experience in commercial district revitalization. Our two principals served as senior staff for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Main Street Center, one as the Center’s longest-serving director and one as a senior program officer. Both also served as managers of local downtown revitalization programs before joining the staff of the National Main Street Center, bringing first-hand experience with the daily challenges and long-term opportunities of downtown economic development. One also served as a board member, then as director, of the League of Historic American Theatres. CLUE Group is regarded as one of the nation’s leading experts in commercial district revitalization, downtown economic development, and small business development. Our clients include local and state governments throughout the United States; local, state and national nonprofit organizations; private developers; and government entities in Canada and the United Kingdom. CLUE Group is a limited liability company based in Virginia.
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION JO SHUA BLO O M Josh is a leader in the revitalization of historic commercial districts and a principal at the Community Land Use and Economics Group. He uses local data to craft market-based strategies that help cities and communities build economically differentiated, dynamic places. He lectures and publishes on two of his favorite topics – creating sustainable clusters of independent and chain businesses, and the development of crowdsourced and crowdfunded community-owned businesses. Josh’s work has ranged from small towns like Childress in the Texas Panhandle to Leimert Park, a neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles. Before joining the CLUE Group, Josh led the National Trust Main Street Center’s urban expansion efforts, establishing the citywide Boston Main Streets program in 19 neighborhoods, as well as individual neighborhood Main Street programs in Cleveland, St. Louis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, and others. Josh received his B.A. from Columbia University and a master's in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania. A former molecular biologist, he has more than 20 years of experience in revitalizing downtowns, first as executive director of Main Street South Orange, in South Orange, NJ, in the early 1990s, and then as a program officer at the National Main Street Center from 1995 to 2005. He joined CLUE Group in 2005. In 2007 he graduated from the preservation carpentry program at the North Bennet Street School, a historic trades school in Boston. Josh serves as an officer on the board of directors, as well as Manager of Business and Real Estate Development, for Weavers Way Cooperative, a $20 million enterprise in Philadelphia with two grocery stores, a pet supplies store, and two health-and-beauty-aid stores.
SURA LE PHI LLI PS For 23 years, Surale Phillips has provided research and consulting services to the nonprofit sector with a focus on arts and culture. Her research supports projects in building nonprofit organizational capacity, audience development, audience engagement, marketing, community cultural planning, and program evaluation. Her services have been the foundation for research projects supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, Knight Foundation, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Surdna Foundation, and several community foundations. Clients have included foundations, arts service organizations, united arts funds, state, regional and local arts councils, performing arts presenters, festivals, museums, theater, opera, and dance companies, symphony orchestras, and institutions of higher education. Surale’s presenting engagements have included American's for the Arts National Convention, the National Arts Marketing Project Conference, Pennsylvania Governor’s Arts Awards, Southeastern Conference on Foundations, Midwest Council on Philanthropy, Kentucky Arts Presenters, San Diego Commission on Cultural Affairs, and the American Folklore Society. Currently, she serves on the Montana State Arts Council Cultural and Aesthetic Grants Committee, as a Major Institutional Grants Adjudicator for the Tennessee Arts Commission, a Research Technical Advisor for Dance USA’s Engaging Dance Audiences program, and a Faculty Member for Training and Workshops with Americans for the Arts. From 2005 to 2007 she served as Executive Director for Classics for Kids Foundation in Bozeman, MT. Prior to founding Decision Support Partners, Inc. in 2002, Surale was Vice President of Research and Administration for a national arts consulting firm for 13 years.
The research plan focused on outcome metrics that would yield quantitative and qualitative information – information that could measure impa...
Published on Apr 13, 2018
The research plan focused on outcome metrics that would yield quantitative and qualitative information – information that could measure impa...