Artist Dave Ford's Swing Set Drum Kit is a hit at street fests and block parties. Credit: Courtesy Dave Ford

When Chicago artist Dave Ford was commissioned to build a kinetic children’s sculpture six years ago, he turned to his daughter for inspiration. Combining the then five-year-old’s two favorite activities—swinging in the park and banging on pots and pans—he constructed the Swing Set Drum Kit. Launch the swing and the Rube Goldbergian setup of wires, wheels, and weights triggers an outburst of snares, bass drums, and cymbals; in one swift motion a single swinger acts as a marching band drum trio.

Ford occasionally tows his cacophonous creation to festivals and other public events around the city so anyone can bang on the drum all day. It takes more than three hours to install the swing and line up all the drums, but Ford sees his effort quickly rewarded. Even in the pouring rain at last month’s Guerrilla Truck Show in the Fulton Market neighborhood, people taking their first swing lit up like kids on a playground. Though the Swing Set Drum Kit was originally created for children, the artist says it’s more often adults who feel compelled to slake their rhythmic curiosity; the next chance to do so will be July 12 and 13 at Lincoln Square’s Square Roots Festival.

“I’ve heard a lot of comments like, ‘I haven’t been on swing in 30 years,'” Ford says. “I think it’s great that it gets people to do something they haven’t done in a while or otherwise don’t do.”

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