Commissioned by University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum (USFCAM), The Music Box: Tampa Bay was a temporary musical architecture installation by visiting artists New Orleans Airlift (NOA) in collaboration with local artists, and students from the university and community partner. Working with NOA’s model of collaboration and use of reclaimed materials from the site, the artists created architectural structures which were capable of generating sound and transformed a local pocket park into a musical village for a month-long series of free musical performances and cultural events and a place for experimentation, exploration and play.
The goals of commissioning NOA to bring their model of The Music Box, a unique multi-disciplinary project, to Tampa were fuse art, architecture, music, engineering, and history to create a performance space to incite wonder and discovery, as well as bridge and unite communities through the stimulation of new audiences and creative alliances. The artist-designed musical structures were integral to transforming the site, a small park along lush sub-tropical riverbanks in an underserved neighborhood, into a magical village and sonic playground to inspire invention and exploration in visitors of all ages. During the design and build phase of the project, the collaboration between the commissioned artists was vital to the conceptualization of the structures and their placement and role within the village site. The commissioned artists considered sustained functionality, accessibility, and visibility of the performers and public interaction with the “musical houses” during the invention and integration of the instruments into the architectural design and the overall design of the public art installation.
The Music Box: Tampa Bay public art project was artist driven from concept to implementation. The collaborating artists and participating students were guided through the design and build phases of the project by the founders and technical directors from New Orleans Airlift. Visual artists worked with sound artists to invent “houses” with embedded instrumentation– The Pitch Bow House featured clavichord and creaky wooden floors, sliding door and window guitars; The Syphonium, a water tower with musical pipes, provided an opportunity for a performer to play the instrument by pedaling a bicycle to pump water into the system from the nearby river; and the Lunar Tool Shed included an array of re-purposed garden tools that functioned as musical instruments, including the shovel bass. The Music Box project was informed and inspired by NOA’s philosophy of uniting artists and building community by bringing disparate groups together through common and powerful goals, shared resources and exchange of expertise and knowledge. Transformed into a performance space, the project became a platform and creative catalyst for local musicians, dancers and performers to collaborate and expand their practice in new directions.
The Music Box: Tampa Bay extended its creative and community reach through free cultural events offered to the public for four consecutive weekends, from March 25 through April 17, 2016. In total, 60 musicians and performers entertained nearly 1,500 audience members during eight performances over the month-long project. Additional programming reverberated the creative force of the project: open play days, talk about the history and geography of area by local historians, an open jam session, and an open mic night hosted by the a youth spoken word group, who performed works inspired from the sounds of the structures.
The Music Box: Tampa Bay
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