Back for its second year, the Waller Creek Conservancy’s Creek Show 2015 celebrates downtown’s bright future. Despite last year’s cold weather, more than 5,000 people turned out to stroll along Waller Creek amid creative, site-specific light installations.
The event has been expanded this year. From Nov. 12-21, 2015, Austinites can explore the beauty waiting beneath Austin’s city streets.
Where Is Waller Creek and Why Does It Matter?
Waller Creek, all 1.5 miles, stretches from 15th Street to Lady Bird Lake, right through downtown Austin. As it is now, the creek and its environs are as neglected and forlorn as an unloved child. Hidden below steep embankments, some sections are almost completely invisible from the street, while others have become eyesores, marked by erosion, stagnant water and accumulated trash.
In 2010, Waller Creek Conservancy was conceived “to make sure that someone is always looking after Waller Creek,” explained Meredith Bossin, Director of Programming. The non-profit partners with the City of Austin, much like The Trail Foundation (the non-profit organization responsible for the boardwalk that completed the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail). The public/private partnership enables the city to make necessary infrastructure improvements, while the Conservancy designs and plans surface projects.
The city’s Flood Control Tunnel Project, a crucial first step to revitalizing Waller Creek, is nearing completion. The new tunnel alleviates flash flooding, removes a large area of downtown Austin from the 100-year flood plane and improves water quality through adaptive flow (adjusting the rate of water in the creek will keep water circulating). Without this project, further work would be useless, as demonstrated by this video of a flooded Waller Creek filmed from Easy Tiger on Sixth Street last Memorial Day:
“We really wanted to create a series that could live on for years,” said Spencer. Whatley created the concept of bringing in the architectural community for a commissioned site-specific show, but they needed a name. Spencer’s then 5-year-old son made a suggestion: “Why don’t you call it ‘Creek Show’?” It stuck.
The Waller Creek Monster Lives!
“What we loved about ‘Creek Show’ was that it sounded like ‘Freak Show,’ which really captured what was going on with Waller Creek,” Spencer recalled. “It’s in a pretty desperate, disheveled state. You don’t know what’s actually lurking underneath that murky water, but at the same time there’s beauty to be found there.”
The Conservancy reached out to graphic designer DJ Stout, with local design firm Pentagram, to create an iconic logo, incorporating a “terrible but lovable” monster brought to life by Marc Burkhart, a nationally-recognized and award-winning artist and illustrator who also teaches at Texas State University.
The inaugural event exceeded expectations, and the Conservancy has expanded last year’s framework to include more opportunities for visitors to learn about and enjoy the Waller Creek area.
The Creek Show quite literally highlights the potential beauty of a revitalized Waller Creek corridor. Bossin explained the Creek Show process: selected local artists from a variety of areas (landscape design, architecture, etc.) walk the creek with Conservancy staff. From that experience, artists develop design concepts and collaborate to create a cohesive show. Installation began last week, and everything will be removed after Creek Show 2015 ends, though Bossin did say some designs may spark future projects. “Seeing that light bulb going off” after this immersive experience has become Bossin’s favorite aspect of the show.
Until the Waller Creek area is improved, the best way to enjoy this area of downtown Austin is by visiting during the annual Creek Show. In addition to the free nightly display from Nov. 12 through Nov. 21, there are supplemental events.
3 Ways to Light Up Your Night Downtown
#1 GenWaller Monster Bash
- Nov. 13, The Gatsby, 7–9 p.m.
- Hosted by Generation Waller, the young leaders group supporting Waller Creek Conservancy
- Raffle, DJ set and a chance to meet the Creek Monster
- Tickets are free, RSVP required
#2 Creek Show 2015 Artist Talk
- Nov. 17, Waller Ballroom, 6:30 p.m.
- The five Creek Show 2015 designers will discuss their installations
- Panel discussion led by Andrea Mallard, Contemporary Austin, Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement
- Tickets required, suggested $5 donation (includes snacks and drinks)
#3 UT Materials Lab Gallery Talk & Exhibition Opening
- Nov. 18, University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture’s Materials Lab
- Gallery Talk from 5–6 p.m. followed by opening reception 6–7 p.m.
- Get additional details as each installation team discusses the process behind putting together Creek Show 2015
Austinot’s Tips for Creek Show Fun
- Come dressed for an outdoor walk. Bad weather? Check with Waller Creek Conservancy via social media (Facebook, Twitter).
- Because it’s a lit exhibit, shows are open nightly from 6-10 p.m.
- All designs are at creek level. Access is from 7th (just east of Sabine), 6th and 5th streets. So consider where parking will be most convenient.
- Volunteers are available to answer questions and onsite maps provide directions.
- Want cool photos? Try a weeknight (Bossin suggested Monday and Tuesday), when finding a good shot is easier. Weekend nights have bigger crowds and a bustling vibe.
- Consider starting your stroll and walking to establishments. Last year, most people made Easy Tiger a point of entry, which created a bit of a glut.
- Check out the Artist Talk to give insight on what you’re seeing.
- Creek Show is family friendly, but kids may especially enjoy Family Night, when The Thinkery will provide hands-on activities.
- Share your experience using the #CreekShow hashtag.
leahruns100 wants to know:
How do you put together a fun #CreekShow evening in downtown #ATX?