Calling Campus to Waller Creek

Waller Creek Monster Nest reconstruction

In a utilitarian room made of cinderblocks and plywood, designs from past theater productions—a brilliantly colored dragon mask, wire built into the muscles of a velociraptor—peer down onto a dozen students gathered around the scarred worktables. The students, part of the Texas Applied Arts program in Theatre and Dance, are listening to a presentation about how to delineate the level of the 100-year flood plain for their new interactive exhibit.

Karen Maness, Faculty Project Lead, breaks into the presentation. “We need to establish the power first and find a sustainable way to get lights. But I love your idea of the lanterns itself: cutting off plastic bottles.”

For the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, this team is constructing an installation near Waller Creek at the corner of San Jacinto and 24th Streets. By encircling the trunks of 26 trees with a band of fabric and light, anyone walking by could determine if they’d be dry or swimming when the creek rises. In addition, the team is reimagining the Waller Creek Monster Habitat after its wildly successful premiere at last November’s CreekShow where 60,000 visitors strolled through the nest and looked into blinking eyes.

In addition to the visuals, the installation will include a restorative soundcape and interactive QR codes that educate visitors about research, biodiversity and urban ecology. Events planned around the Waller Creek Monster Habitat include a guided yoga practice and wellness walking tours. The team plans to finish with a meditative evening procession on Earth Day—potentially lit with lanterns, including a soundscape of UT Earth Day promised collected during the month, and ending with unprecedented views of earth, as shown by Bella Gaia: Beautiful Earth on the evening of April 22 at Bass Concert Hall.

Back in the studio, the conversation flows from the promise of 3-D printing to details of campus research in the creek to calculating voltage need to make the vision a reality. Soon, as Maness puts it, it is “time to meet the nest.” Students follow her into the Scenic Studio to begin reassembling the welded steel frame using the top of a 10-foot ladder as a center point. Over the next few weeks, they will dress the nest with branches and bamboo until it appears on the banks of Waller Creek.

“This Waller Creek Monster Habitat is a remarkable way to experience and connect to the rejuvenating power of Waller Creek,” says Maness. “We invite the community to rediscover this jewel of our campus. Waller Creek is calling!”

Green Fund funded the Waller Creek Monster Nest.

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Written by Kristin Phillips, Communications Coordinator