Sight and sound seesaw installation, 'Rock the Riverfront' coming to downtown Chattanooga

People on Impulse seesaws between 37th and 38th Streets in New York on Jan. 24, 2020. The set of playground-inspired contraptions, known as Impulse, is the latest installation in the garment district Alliance's yearlong public art program. (Benjamin Norman/The New York Times)

RiverCity officials are bringing to downtown Chattanooga's riverfront an interactive art installation of 15 huge seesaws that light up and create sound when in use.

The seesaws, coupled with a month of events and activities dubbed "Rock the Riverfront," is an effort to help meet one of the aims of the city's new downtown waterfront plan to bring more people to the area.

"It's one of the first tangible things to see," said Dawn Hjelseth, vice president of marketing and communication for the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group, in an interview last week.

Called Impulse, the attraction will be free and open for the public daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. March 4 through April 3, according to River City.

The giant illuminated seesaws range in size from 16-24 feet in length. The interactive exhibit will take place on Chattanooga Green Park on Riverfront Parkway next to the Tennessee Aquarium. When put into motion by users, the seesaws respond and transform with light and sound.

Hjelseth said Impulse has been exhibited in 45 cities worldwide on four continents, including New York, Boston, Detroit, London and Brisbane. Chattanooga will be the smallest city for the exhibit to date and the first in the central Southeast.

"We're very excited to have this come to Chattanooga," Hjelseth told the Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp., which last week endorsed the idea and use of the park.

Brent Goldberg, the city's chief financial officer and Chattanooga Downtown Redevelopment Corp. chairman, said the exhibit is unique.

"Kids are going to love it," he said.

photo A woman takes her turn on an Impulse seesaw between 37th and 38th Streets in New York on Jan. 24, 2020. The set of playground-inspired contraptions, known as Impulse, is the latest installation in the garment district Alliance's yearlong public art program. (Benjamin Norman/The New York Times)

Meanwhile, Rock the Riverfront will offer weekend events including music, art vendors and performances highlighting diverse cultures and the riverfront's history, according to River City.

A health and wellness weekend, Rock 'N Cheer for the Chattanooga Marathon, a family-friendly St. Patrick's Day celebration and an artist market featuring items from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee are among planned events.

Emily Mack, River City's president and chief executive, said the ONE Riverfront planning process that wrapped up last year attracted feedback from more than 2,300 Chattanoogans to revitalize the waterfront.

"There was an overwhelming response for events and activities to be hosted on the Chattanooga Green that are free to the community and provide a fun atmosphere for families during the weekday and weekends," she said in a statement.

Mack said Impulse and artist performances will allow River City to test concepts that may lead to permanent changes on the riverfront.

Hjelseth said River City continues to work with the city and others on proposals in the riverfront plan such as attracting more affordable housing and businesses, reworking Broad Street into a better pedestrian corridor, enhancing public space and refreshing the Riverwalk.

The riverfront plan offered the biggest remake to the waterfront in nearly two decades. Hjelseth said River City already has been conducting some events to reenergize the riverfront. While the riverfront has lagged in recent years, other parts of downtown such as the Southside and The Bend are seeing a lot of interest and development.

Hjelseth declined to say how much it will cost to bring Impulse to Chattanooga but added a variety of event sponsors is contributing to the exhibit and Rock the Riverfront. No city money will go toward the exhibit, Goldberg said.

Impulse was created and executed by the Lateral Office design studio and CS Design and produced by Quartier des Spectacles Partnership of Montreal, according to River City.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.