Art in the Park: Your Workout Just Got Better

2014-09-09 16.59.39

A park visitor captures coins using Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner’s app-based fitness game at FLEX IT! in Centennial Park.

Exercise just got easier thanks to artists Bryan Leister and Becky Heavner, whose interactive, app-based game Pygmalion’s Challenge has Centennial Park visitors pointing their smart phones at batches of flowers and racing up the the Parthenon steps. As part of FLEX IT! My Body My Temple, new media artist Leister and landscape architect Heavner joined forces to riff on the theme of obesity prevention, healthy living, and community. The results couldn’t be more fun and require only a smart phone to get started.

Visitors must download the free app for iPhone or Android. The goal of the game is to collect coins that allow you to unlock sculptures and watch them come to life. The artists have set sculptural markers on the Parthenon law that are now lush with flowers. Pointing a smartphone at a marker causes several gold coins to pop up on the screen. Then comes the exercise: contestants can race to the “Treasury” behind the Parthenon to cash in coins for keys. They then race back to the markers to unlock colorful, animated characters from the sculptures. The app includes an option to take a picture with the dancing sculptures and post it to social media, which the artists hope will encourage participation from kids and adults. Gold coins are apparently heavy though, so they’ll have to make several trips to unlock all of the treats.

Leister’s interactive artwork is a perfect match with Heavner’s landscape architecture. Both disciplines require an audience. “It all revolves around anticipating what people want and providing them with that experience,” Leister says. “With landscape architecture and interactive design, there is no photo opp. It’s more about the experience of people walking through the space and thinking, ‘How can I make people happy and enjoy themselves more?’”

Leister’s interactive gaming and design work includes the creation of 2000 messages to survivors of the Mayan apocalypse, an app-based mood analyticator, and videos that track viewers’ motion. He will return to Nashville on September 19-21, where he and Heavner will present a talk on their design process for Pygmalion’s Challenge (Saturday 10 a.m., location TBD). At Watkins College of Art and Design, he will facilitate two workshops: Creating 2D and 3D Content for Video Games (Thursday and Friday, 1-5 p.m., room #403) and Augmented Reality (Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m., room #403).

FLEX IT! My Body My Temple is a set of evolving, socially engaged art exhibits in the Parthenon Museum and on Centennial Park grounds. Curated by Adrienne Outlaw of Seed Space, FLEX IT! invites participation and reflection on personal health and fitness, while building community.

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