The Urban Conga: Reshaping Normal In Downtown Tampa

A group of Tampa Bay area architects, designers, artists and creators want to stimulate your mind and body through interactive displays in downtown Tampa. Whoa. Say it's so!

The Urban Conga in downtown Tampa isn't talking about a typical public art display. The installations they spin out of their minds are interactive, attracting people into spaces and places where they otherwise wouldn't think to visit.

One recent display, "Projecting Fun,'' used a Kinect game, which responds to the body's movements, projected onto a five-story abandoned wagon wheel building on Franklin Street. Imagine that. Your body dancing lights and sounds across the Tampa skyline. The event was so much fun, people are clamoring for more.

So The Urban Conga has launched a new Kickstarter campaign to see if they can generate enough financial support to do even more. To contribute, follow this link.

The Line Starts Here

The idea behind The Urban Conga was sparked by four students at the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design who share a passion to make downtown Tampa, and ultimately other communities, more accessible and approachable.

"There's so much there in Tampa'' says Ryan Swanson, co-founder of The Urban Conga. "It's not about building more, but showing people what's already there and making them notice how awesome Tampa really is.''

Swanson moved to Tampa seven years ago to attend USF. While living in the neighborhoods around USF, he never discovered a reason to visit downtown Tampa. When he moved to the Tampa Heights neighborhood just north of downtown, he realized what a treasure the rest of Tampa really is. "I kind of fell in love with Tampa at that point.''

The group places the installations in unused and overlooked urban spaces, such as alleyways or parking lots, with the idea of enhancing the beauty of what others may consider ordinary -- or even scary. The goal is for people to  stop and see what's there, rather than just scurrying by.

"We all enjoy making things. We want to bring those things into downtown and share them with people, to help people have some fun while they're there,'' says Swanson.

Expanding Near And Far

Future ideas include "Color Code Bench,'' a public bench that doubles as a musical instrument, allowing people to play notes with each bench pillar. Another project in the works is "The I.C.U. Project,'' an interactive wall that tracks peoples movement as they react to it.

The group is open to ideas, collaborations and partnerships; anyone interested can join the conga line.

Although they're starting with Tampa, the long-term goal is to expand the project to different cities across the U.S.

Megan Hendricks is a native Floridian and longtime Tampa Bay resident who loves the culture and diversity of the region. In her free time she enjoys local restaurants, thrift store shopping and spending time with her family. She earned her masters of business administration from USF Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

A Florida native and longtime Tampa Bay resident, Megan Hendricks graduated from the University of South Florida with a master's degree in business administration. She worked at the USF College of Business and has extensive community experience including the Tampa Bay Partnership's Talent Dividend Advisory Board, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Emerge Tampa Bay, Ekhos, and Bar Camp Tampa. She is a former board member and newsletter editor for Creative Tampa Bay. Megan enjoys telling the stories that make Tampa Bay a unique, diverse cultural experience.