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Art Snax: The Urban Conga lecture, and other art events on local menu

Ryan Swanson, Creator of Fun at Urban Conga has fun and poses amid a Wes Roos painting.


As an award-winning design and architecture firm, The Urban Conga is serious about fun and gathering people together to interact in real time. On Jan. 9, founder and executive direction Ryan Swanson will be presenting “Playable Cities” as a free event in part of the USF School of Architecture & Community Design’s Spring 2018 lecture series.
 
“Play is a strong activity where people break barriers and engage with people they wouldn’t normally interact with. When we think of city development, we think about creating buildings and parking, but we forget about how a person travels through this space. There are these really great community gathering spots, but people are still disconnected so we ask how we can get people to interact with one another. We think of it as place-making through play-making,” Swanson says.
 
The lecture will in part be an overview of who The Urban Conga is and what they do, but also digging into how they accomplish their projects. As a graduate of the USF School of Architecture, Swanson will be discussing the potential of “play” to be a game-changer for urban planning in the future.
 
The responses to Urban Conga’s projects have been energetic, but sometimes cities question it at first … until thousands of people show up the week their project is installed. Because of this initial doubt from municipalities, they have been working with the British Council to develop qualitative and quantitative studies to see how their work affects cities, from personal experiences to the traffic and revenue it can create.
 
“We’re looking at things that already exist in the public realm and architecture, and take it one step further. It’s the idea of how play can be used in everyday spaces. It’s not just about kid’s playgrounds, but it could also be sidewalks, alleyways, or benches that act as platforms for community activity and allow people to escape their monotonous routine,” Swanson explains.
 
Other art events coming up:
 
  • CASS presents ''Naughty by Nature'' at its satellite gallery, the Epicurean Hotel, on Jan. 12. Featuring new watercolors by Jason Pulgarin, his street art aesthetic -- inspired by cartoons, fashion, and graffiti -- is captured in works on paper.
  • On Jan. 12, join artists Javier Castro, Yunior Aguiar Perdomo of Celia y Yunior, and Glexis Novoa at the USF CAM for a lively discussion surrounding art, politics, and the environment during the exhibition reception for ''Climate Change: Cuba/USA.'' The artist talk, moderated by curator Noel Smith, will start at 6 p.m. at the Barness Recital Hall, followed by the exhibition reception from 7-9 p.m.
  • Get on your boogie shoes and get ready to bust a move at Tempus Project’s (NO MEDIA) Dance Party on Jan. 13. Just as the name states: no phones, cameras, or screens to get some real face time with your friends. Just disconnect and dance!
  • Part fashion show, part art party -- you can’t really go wrong with that combination. On Jan. 13, see who’s rocking the runway during ''Cocktails & Couture: Apocalipstick'' at The Ritz Ybor, with designs from Elizabeth Carson Racker Fashion Design Boutique, Halle Elizabeth Couture, Juliet Retro, Kingsland by Kevin Arnett, Sew Addicted, and Spellbound Stitches. Come for the fashion, but stick around for the music and performances. Tickets range from $13-60.
  • Even if you don’t have a yard for a big garden, you can learn how to utilize wall space for planting at the Vertical Garden Workshop: Design and Maintenance hosted by Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association on Jan. 16. But these gardens aren’t just beautiful; they’re also beneficial (who doesn’t want noise reduction and lower A/C costs?) The workshop will be run by Hal Thorne, Debbie Kotalic, and Dan Ballay of GSky Plant Systems, and cost $75 per person ($90 after Jan. 5).
  • The group exhibition "Beyond Tradition: Contemporary Reflections in East Asia,'' featuring works by 8 East Asian artists who explore traditional styles and techniques in a contemporary manner, will exhibit at USF’s Carolyn M. Wilson Gallery from Jan. 17 – Feb. 1. The free lecture, “Embrace or Rebel?,” by Dr. Hyewon Yi surrounding this exhibition will be on Jan. 18 in FAH 101.
  • About once a year, Santaella Studios opens their doors for an art show and open house so the public can see what the artists’ have been up to their unique cigar factory studio spaces. The event will be on Feb. 2, and a portion of the proceeds of this event will go toward Children’s Cancer Center.
  • If you’re into punkish sounds, energetic beats, or experimental drums, you should check out the bands Career, Permanent Makeup, and Sean Hamilton who are lined up to play at CL Space in Ybor on Feb. 9. Adam Roberts’ photography exhibition will provide the backdrop for the concert.

Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA (graduating Summer 2018) from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website.
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