Slackline Pittsburgh is a community built around informal hands-on learning and physical play. Much of the participation centers around people practicing, demonstrating, and mentoring one another in slacklining, an activity similar to tightrope walking. Frequenting the heavily-foot-trafficked Schenley Plaza area, Slackline Pittsburgh draws passers-by in with eye-catching pursuits of balance and coordination alongside posterboard signs that welcome anyone to join in regardless of skill level. Curious newcomers can enjoy watching or try slacklining for themselves on a low, beginner-friendly line that Slackline Pittsburgh sets up and supervises. These slacking sessions have become occasions for general outdoor play and circus arts practice, with friends coming together to practice juggling, poi, hoop dance, acrobatics, and stilt-walking as well.
My friend Tilman Heueis and I founded Slackline Pittsburgh as a way of sharing our love of outdoor play with others. With regularly-scheduled events, open-access equipment, and a welcoming atmosphere, our group grew from three members and a single slackline in the spring of 2009 to sixty members, seven slacklines, and a slack rope by the following year. In April 2010, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh invited us to hold a interactive session for museum visitors as part of the We Can! Series, sponsored by UPMC Health Plan. We transformed their Garage/Workshop climber into a multiple-slackline setup for a four-hour workshop and demonstration promoting healthy, physically active play. Slackline Pittsburgh has been featured in e-magazine Pop City and on the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy calendar and blog, and by the time I moved away from Pittsburgh in November 2011 I had personally coordinated and ran over one hundred open participation circus arts meetups. The group remains active, with members continuing to organize new events via the Slackline Pittsburgh Facebook group.