By Holly Jay
What started out as an art project in 2010 has now become a campus landmark and favorite spot for a variety of students.
The red swing outside the Student Union Building has returned through the efforts and input of various Union students and stands as a symbol of spontaneity and youth on campus.
“I enjoyed the swing when it was up the first time, and to have it back is an awesome thing for our campus,” said Wil Sloan, senior history major, echoing the thoughts of many Union students.
It all started when Andersen Russell, senior social work major, had an art project in a 3D design art class she took as a freshman.
“The project was ‘space.’ Basically, we had to create or change an object to make the viewer think about space differently,” Russell said. “My original idea was to create a swing that was too small for anyone to use, making people wish they could swing on it.”
In the end, she decided to go the opposite way with the idea and create a big swing that would resemble a small child’s swing.
“A college campus is full of adults, so the idea was to create a swing so big that it would make the person swinging feel small like a child again,” Russell said.
Jonathan Gwaltney, senior engineering major, helped her to construct a long swing that was raised rather far off the ground.
“The goal was to make it a bit of a struggle to get into the swing and for the person to feel small as they tried to reach from one rope to the other in hopes of them reminiscing about playing as a child,” Russell said.
Russell said Dean of Students Kimberly Thornbury asked if Union could keep the swing up for the semester since so many students were enjoying it.
Eventually, however, the swing began to wear out and was taken down to prevent injury.
In spring 2012, Rebecca Edgren, junior English major, had an assignment in her advanced composition course to research and write a letter about something she wanted to change to a person or corporation who had the power to change it.
“I researched options for getting swings on campus, found out about Andersen Russell’s original red swing and composed my final letter asking [an SGA representative] to consider putting a bill through Student Senate to get the red swing back,” Edgren said. “I decided to go the Student Senate route because I thought it would be nice to have the swing be a sort of student body project with lots of popular support.”
Edgren said that at the same time she and Holly Harris, a current SGA representative, were working on the bill, another student organization sponsored a bill to get a swing on campus, and that bill went through Student Senate first.
A red swing has now been returned to the same spot where the original was, just outside of the Student Union Building.
David Adams, sophomore engineering major, built the new swing just before classes started this semester.
Adams had the idea for a campus swing and took initiative to build one for campus. He contacted the dean’s office and was able to see pictures of Russell’s original swing for inspiration, Thornbury said.
Adams built and installed the swing with supplies purchased from Student Life. He said it took only about three hours to build. The art department arranged for the swing to be painted red, like the original.
Russell said the original was painted red not because red is a Union color but because primary colors often are chosen as playground and kids’ toys colors.
“I am grateful for Andersen for the original idea and thankful to David for taking the initiative and having the skills to build these new swings,” Thornbury said. “David was a wonderful student to work with, and I loved how he was energized to make this campus a better place.”
“I pass by the swing multiple times a day, and always see students enjoying it. The swing makes people happy,” she said.
Senior social work major Anika Strand echoed the sentiments of many Union students who are frequently seen spending time enjoying the swing.
“For me, it brings back a flood of memories from the good old days of freshman year when the swing was first built,” Strand said. “I love that it began as an art project, but it evolved into sort of a landmark on campus. After it was built, everyone knew what ‘the red swing’ was, and I’m really glad it has finally reappeared.”