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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Creek Show 2021 lights up spacious new Waterloo Park

November 17, 2021

After a covid hiatus last year, Waterloo Greenway‘s fantastical Creek Show — light-sculpture installations by local designers — has returned, and it’s better than ever. The illuminated art lights up Austin’s newly overhauled Waterloo Park nightly through November 21. We reserved our free tickets weeks ago (it’s now “sold out”) and went with friends on Monday night.

Creek Show used to be held along a dark, unimproved section of Waller Creek in downtown Austin. The creekside path was narrow, congested, and lacked guardrails, and I always expected to see someone fall into the water — hoping it wouldn’t be me.

But Waterloo Park — one of a chain of parks along Waller Creek being redeveloped — gives Creek Show a lot more elbow room, contributing to a laid-back Austin vibe, at least on a Monday evening. A bluesy band was rocking the stage under the white lattice roof of the amphitheater, as people of all ages lounged on chairs and on the lawn, soaking up live music amid the art.

si-glo by dwg.

The light installations appear along the park’s pathways. A cluster of giant, inflatable, blue agaves caught our attention first. It’s called si-glo, and here’s the official description:

“Big changes gave dwg. big ideas for a big installation. Inspired by the many thousands of new plants installed at Waterloo Park, ‘si-glo’ elevates the century plant to epic proportions to celebrate the new, long-lasting life brought to this green space in the heart of Austin. Poppy, gigantic, glowing, and soft to touch, the inflatables will surprise and delight crowds while honoring Waterloo Greenway’s mission of enhancing connections between nature, art and culture.”

During February’s snowpocalypse Austin lost many of its iconic century plants — aka American agaves — so it’s good to see them celebrated on an epic scale.

As we walked to the next installation, we admired live oaks glowing with pink light.

SWAY by Ian Randall & Clayton Cain

On the upper deck behind the stage, dozens of inflatable pink bolsters (or punching bags?) dangle overhead, seeming to invite visitors to reach up and touch them.

It’s called SWAY:

“Waller Creek exemplifies movement. The movement of water, movement of people, the movement of energy. SWAY elicits and exemplifies this movement through wind. In order to achieve this, our installation is suspended from the Moody Amphitheater’s pavilion canopy, filling the space with motion and light; the glowing fixtures free to sway in the breeze.”

Suffused in their pink glow, we leaned on the rail for a few minutes to watch the band perform.

The gigantic agaves of si-glo are eye-catching even at this distance.

BioNest by Wevolve Labs

Next we found BioNest, organically-shaped scrims embedded with twigs and leaves that pulse to instrumental music. The big one looks like upside-down pants to me, and the surrounding ones like dresses. A few people swayed to the beat as the lights flashed and changed color. Up the hill, the state capitol building shone white against the dark sky.

Here’s the description of BioNest:

“Taking a craft and material-based approach informed by a practice of research and making, BioNest takes inspiration in the biology of plants and animals found at Waller Creek in form and material. The free-standing sculptures feature translucent bio-plastic skin made from seaweed and embedded with site-specific organic matter formed over a bent-wood frame. A lighting strategy and soundscape join the figures in conversation with each other. The entire work is bio-degradable and can return to the earth at the end of its life partaking in the new circular economy by designing with nature, tradition, and abundant materials.”

We sat on stone amphitheater steps a while, and I couldn’t help noticing how happy everyone looked. And why not? It was a perfect Austin night.

As we headed to the next sculpture, we got another good view of the capitol dome.

CREEKture by GFF Austin

A ribbed glow below our elevated path revealed CREEKture, the elusive Creek Show monster:

“Throughout the decades, downtown Austin’s Waller Creek has constantly faced ecological challenges affecting the wildlife that is dependent on it, including the Texas Blind Snake. CREEKture is a metaphor for this Austin native species as it rises from the dampened soil of the creek bed before receding back into the murky depths of the earth, allowing spectators a brief glimpse of this elusive creature. CREEKture serves as the reminder that we are simply visitors of Waller Creek and its wildlife habitat, and that we must respect their home just as how we respect our own.”

Then we picked our way through the native plant garden, its stone path dimly lit by perforated light bollards and pink live oaks — a magical space.

HIGH LIGHT by Chioco Design + Drophouse Design

At the top of the hill, tepee-like poles straddle a wide path, their colored tips sliding from red to white to purple.

This may have been my favorite installation. It was fun to walk under and through the tripod legs as the colors changed, or sit and watch other people interact with it.

HIGH LIGHT‘s official description:

“HIGH LIGHT is an interactive installation utilizing the power of simple forms in repetition. This project repurposes the familiar material of steel pipe to create tripod sculptures that shoot up toward the sky. They are arranged to create a field condition that is both engaging to the onlooker and enticing to those who seek to create a path through them. Their height makes the sculptures act as placemaking devices while visitors wander the grounds – calling out the park as a new highlight of Austin’s built environment.”

Creek Show is a wonderful pre-Thanksgiving tradition in Austin. I think I’ve explored every installation over the past 7 years. Click for my photos of past Creek Shows:

Unfortunately, Creek Show’s free tickets are already booked up for the remaining days. So if you didn’t get tickets early, you’ll just have to wait for the creek creature and its light show to reemerge next November. It’ll be worth the wait.

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