Monday 25 July 2022 By Willow Higgins
For the past several years, the moratorium has prevented any new public artwork from being installed near the hiking and bike trail in Austin and Lady Bird Lake. With this moratorium ending, the Trail Foundation, which took over the administration of the district, is making plans to incorporate more public art into the city’s crown jewel.
The Trail Foundation has launched an official arts and cultural programming project, and hopes to have a solid plan for the initiative by the end of this year. The basis for that plan and any future projects will build from its first initiative, which has been in the works for over a year and completed this spring. The project is called Shared waterwas the total hits. Representatives from the Trail Foundation and the artist who led the project spoke to Arts Committee This week about their early success and what’s yet to come.
Local artists Rejina Thomas, Ruben Esquivel and Taylor Davis have been commissioned to create a floating wetland to glide along the surface of Lady Bird Lake. Above the floating wet ground is a sculptural piece resembling a nest. The nest is home to a small ecosystem of plants that grow in the water out of sight.
“These roots create surfaces for microbes and fish, and this will all clean pollutants and excess nutrients from the lake,” said Charlotte Tonsor, project manager. She explained that the installation “explores the intersection of art, activism, environment and community while highlighting beauty and demonstrating the importance of Lady Bird Lake, the lifeblood of our city.”
Shared water Rich in symbolism. The sculpture uses invasive dried bamboo, a fast-growing plant that was intended to mimic Austin’s rapid growth as a city, along with seven native species. The project description reads: “Nests are symbols of safety, home and protection.” “This nest serves as an ephemeral shelter for the floating wetlands of native plants for which it is designed To filter and purify toxins from the lake. Likewise, when we protect the indigenous people, brown and black Austin communities, which have been the backbone of cultural creativity for generations, we can also begin to clean up the toxins from the trauma of our ancestors in our city.”
The project was launched as a celebration in May this year, with the planting and installation completed with community efforts. To be installed, the wetland was pulled onto a barge by a team from the Watershed Protection Department, who were “smiling at everything,” Tonsor recalls. Musician Ephraim Owens played on the boat while the project team sat next to it. There was a blessing from the statue before it was finally pulled from the barge and released into the water.
Davis, one of the project artists who spoke at the arts committee meeting, said, “I think this whole program has been very enriching and I look forward to longer, more intentional iterations. It could take six months to a year to really dive into the fabric of the community we work in and have really intentional conversations about What these technical metaphors mean.
Shared water It’s only one part of what Trail Corporation thinks about the hiking and cycling trail. The project served as a catalyst for finding out what austenites are interested in seeing and making. The project team is currently analyzing data from the surveys before they begin creating their arts and culture programs in August and plans to host another community engagement event this fall.
“We believe that through arts, culture and public art programs we can encourage new faces to come to visit the hiking trail, to cycle, and to expose people[to art],” said Heidi Anderson, CEO of the Trail Foundation.
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