Project Spotlight | Porch Swings and Fireflies

Moberg + Reynolds Design Team

Porch Swings + Fireflies | Text by Michaela Mullin

Do you remember nights as a child, fascinated by the fireflies, small points of flashing light flying around the yard, as if these insects had on/off switches in their bodies, and they were signaling us: it is summer, come out and play? Were you running through the grass, were you sitting on the porch swing, watching this display of quiet light-works—a simple and subtle natural version of fireworks or laser show. Did you catch them and keep them in mason jars so you could study their glow in a very non-scientific way? Did you innocently remove the fire from the fly, or the lightning from the bug, and make a ring of the bright organic object? As adults, we realize how inhumane this tampering with the natural elements may seem, but it is nevertheless part of a fond reverie of those nights, which creates nostalgia, and warmth of what future can hold.

Mason jars filled with LED lights illuminate at dusk


If you have ever driven fast by a field of fireflies, and noticed the light streaking like sparklers being waved and twirled, and seen first hand the stunning illumination and its traces, you know this creates a scene like no other. Only certain geographical areas and climates know these wonders. US Midwest-raised persons know these. Bondurant residents know them well.

The large-scale, multi-dimensional, and interactive public art installation by Moberg + Reynolds Design Team, aims to capture this memory as a new community reality; not in a jar, but at the gateway to Bondurant: Gateway Park, at Grant Street And US Hwy 65. This series of nine porch swings surrounded by plants and trees will be sited with the new town entrance sign. Bondurant, a once-small farming community is now a fast-growing town just on the northeast edge of the city of Des Moines. This specific location was chosen for its proximity to the Gay Lea Wilson Trail and the highway, where bicyclists, commuters, pedestrians, travelers and residents will all move past the site, offering a communal, visual, and sensory memory experience.

Oversized swings invite visitors to take a break

Local high school students collaborated on the project as a way to learn how their art can be part of and help create community experience. And to the extent that it is structurally permissible, reclaimed 100-year-old barn timber, sourced from local farms, will be used in the construction of the nine porch swings. To create the “lightning”, representative of the fireflies, LED lighting will be used. The site will offer a functioning swing set, which will create the calming motion associated with rocking, to be seen beneath the gentle glow of the LED lights. This installation will provide positive pause, a moment of reflection—an interlude from the quotidian busy-ness and constant motion of life. These elements are indicative of one of the highest aims of public art: to create and contribute moments in time and space that provoke questions and spark conversations about where we, as individuals and community, have been; and more importantly, where we are going. As Bondurant expands and matures as a community, “Porch Swings and Fireflies” will stand as a grand gesture of simple remembrances, symbolic of a means to figuring out the complexities of future together.

Many thanks to the community leaders and collaborators who assisted in completion of this installation: Brad Roberts, Boonie of Factor 2 Fabrication, Scott Henderson of Set in Stone, Dave Mcgrath of Fineline Woodworks, Mike Blanchard of Quality Electric, Bondurant Development INC, Christin  Vanderhaar, and Mark Arentsen from the City of Bondurant.