Earth Day Project

Project Description:

The first and most central goal we have is to raise awareness of the environment and our responsibility to it. As storytellers, our approach has been to empathize with the creek ecosystem and use the installation as a space to bring people into connection with the spirit of the creek. We want to create caring connections across our community; for ecosystems and critters, for ourselves and our mental wellbeing; all the while connecting with the researchers and organizations on campus that are working for a sustainable present. We believe art is a powerful means to bring compelling new perspectives to light that can bring about healthy change and community action.

Earth Day Class Description:

Driven by student inquiry and collaboration, our class will construct an immersive Waller Creek Earth Day installation, inspired by our Creek Monster habitat from the Waller Creek Conservancy’s 2019 Creek Show. Each member of the group will draw upon their existing competencies and interests to self-organize into teams to determine design solutions, material choices, fabrication schedules and project milestones. Collaboration will be facilitated by professional staff and will occur during scheduled class, labs, as well as online and mobile project management platforms.  Students will receive direct instruction in traditional fabrication, surface finish, and digital fabrication from faculty, staff, and visiting guest artists. The project will move from rigorous theoretical experiment to realized performance ready element over the course of a semester.  All are expected to blend traditional methods with digital fabrication to discover individualized problem-solving styles. This experience will build portfolios, resumes, and leadership skills for career paths in design, architecture, live entertainment, film, engineering, and themed attraction.

CreekMonsterEyeTest
EarthDayLightTest
EarthDayMaterialsHarvest
IMG_20200303_122911
IMG_20200303_123530
IMG_20200303_123542
IMG_20200303_123553
Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 3.51.59 PM
20190624_151332
20190624_151350
PANO_20200213_102741.vr
PANO_20200213_103634.vr
Stuart_Krisitn (1)
EarthDaySoundDesignTeam
IMG_7219
IMG_7349 (1)
Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 3.51.30 PM
EarthDayConstruction
EarthDaySignPreparation
IMG_7479 (3)
IMG_4179
IMG_7440 (1)

Earth Day Fabrication Class:

Installation Team
Michael Bruner
Adriana Lara
Daniel Medina
Daniel Sparks
Kevin Yuen

Mental Wellness/Sound Team
Ale Acevando
Danielle Vongsamphanh
Taylor Wood

Structures Team
Ramiro Caballero
Laura Godinez
Terry Nguyen
Andrea Pantoja
Liam Santos

Earth Day Class Faculty/Project Manager: Karen Maness

Earth Day Guest Artists
Davin Huston – Integrated Arts – Purdue

Supporting Faculty/Staff
Carolina Perez – Sound Design and Sound System Advisor
J.E. Johnson – Texas Performing Arts
Kristi Lampi – Green Fund manager for Texas Performing Arts
Leigh Remeny – Purchasing and Guest Artist Payment processing

Course Objectives:

1.    We will deliver high-quality production elements that are:

  • Are on time and under budget
  • Prioritize health and safety of collaborators, performers, and players
  • Serve stakeholder needs

2.    We will assess the availability and appropriateness of tools and materials

  • research various equipment and materials to determine limitations and suitability for a specific application
  • choose the most appropriate tools and materials (physical, digital, and rhetorical) for the job
  • acquire the necessary tools and materials
  • investigate alternate tools and materials when a desired tool or material is not available
  • fabricate necessary tools, reimagine material choices, develop alternate workflows, and/or revise project scope when alternative tools or materials are not available

3.    We will develop a project plan to:

  • identify who the relevant stakeholders are.
  • specify actionable and measurable project goals and requirements.
  • utilize time management and project management tools.
  • outline project milestones, including sequential action items
  • anticipate time for multiple prototype iterations
  • work effectively within project constraints, be they financial, material, spatial, and/or temporal

4.    Assemble effective teams

  • recognize opportunities to collaborate with others who provide diverse experiences and perspectives
  • gauge the costs & benefits of “Doing-it-Yourself” (DIY) or “Doing-it-Together” (DIT)
  • recruit team members with diverse skills appropriate for specific project requirements
  • join a team where one’s skills are sought and valued
  • solicit advice, knowledge and specific skills from experts

Initial Fabrication Plans

The initial Earth Day installation was composed of 4 physical components. This included the Creak Monster Habitat Nest Structure, a meditation Labyrinth, a 100-year floodplain banding, a Mental Wellness/Relaxation Sound Garden along with a series of 10 signs that will be placed along the creek.

The fabrication of these various works of art were split among three teams: the Installation team, the Mental Wellness team, and the Social Media team.

Installation Team

The installation team had been working to create physical manifestations through lighting and sculpture in order to express the story of the creek and to generate curiosity from passing pedestrians.

They did so by planning the Nest structure, meditation Labyrinth, tree banding, and the physical structure of the signage.

Nest

The nest is the heart of our installation and welcomes passers-by to take a moment to explore Waller Creek. The shell of the nest is covered in invasive plant material which has been pulled from the creek during the weeks leading up to the installation. At night the interior of the nest is brought to light through the animation of embedded LED lighting, calling to mind flying fireflies. Monster eyes on the outside of the nest will glow and disappear on regular cycles to a sense of mystery to space.

Labyrinth

The vision is to create a circular labyrinth, approximately 20 feet in diameter, that was designed to resemble a globe. The hope for this portion of the installation was to give our visitors an opportunity to walk through the maze while listening, reflecting, and enjoying nature. The materials that we eventually settled on for construction were Arundo for the long, gradual curves that would make up the maze boundaries and tree branch cross-sections (ranging from 2 inches or less to over 12 inches in diameter) to outline the continents and possibly border the entire labyrinth itself. As a team, we had ordered and collected all of the necessary materials – string and gardening stakes for construction, and the natural materials (the Arundo was harvested by members of our team and the cross-sections were cut with the help of UT’s landscape department). The next step was simply the installation itself. We planned to construct a grid out of string on the ground and assemble the labyrinth using this and the formalized design. We anticipated this to be a lengthy process and were planning to recruit as many helpers as we could by reaching out to the other subgroups within the class and possibly even other sustainability groups across campus.

Trees

Banding Concept
Flood Plain Concept

With the Earth Day project, our intention throughout the process has been to bring our community together to celebrate the living world. As part of the installation team, our contribution has been to bring interest and life to space at night through the integration of lighting. Through these material engagements, we hope to create an inviting space that generates curiosity for passing pedestrians and also displays the creek as the active living ecosystem it is. In the design phase of our course we identified two main components that we wanted to bring special attention to through lighting, these were the trees bordering Waller Creek that are within the 100-year floodplain and our central Nest structure. We chose to band the trees, with decomposable burlap and low power LED lights, at the 100-year floodplain because these flooding events are very disruptive to both human and natural environments and are largely caused by the use of non-permeable building techniques. All of the water runoff from our roads and parking lots drain into the creek not only create flash floods but deposit harmful substances into the creek. Research done on campus led by Stuart Reichler investigates harmful chemical compounds found in Waller Creek, where they originate, and categorizes the main threats to the creeks ecological health. By creating a striking visual manifestation of the floodplain our hope is to raise awareness of the issue and have the opportunity to share ways of mitigating these disturbances.

Signs

Mental Wellness Team

The mental wellness team had been in charge of putting together activities that engage the community in positive practices.

They did so by planning three different soundscapes, as well as three different type of events.

Soundscapes

  • North Site
    • This area is also called the ‘Mental Wellness/ Relaxation Sound Garden’. This site will be where people will be able to sit in hammocks to enjoy the sounds.
  • South Site
    • This site was where the Creek Monster Habitat Nest is located. This soundscape will include the previous Creek Monster SFX.
  • Bass Concert Hall
    • This soundscape would go hand in hand with another event that was previously planned “Earth Day 50 Promise Walk”. There would be a huge group of people walking from the tower to end up in front of Bass Concert Hall. Here there would be an echo of Earth Day promises made from the UT/Austin community.

Events

  • Yoga
    • Will be held in the South Site
    • 2-3 days, 1-hour class, each at the same difficulty level (beginner-moderate)
      • Focus on exercises people can do on their own for stress relief
  • Meditation
    • This event was planned but not fully developed
    • “College sunrise Meditation”
    • Would be held at the garden from 11 am to 12 pm
      • Instructor-led, focus on techniques on maintaining and caring for mental wellness
  • Painting/Planting
    • This event was planned but not fully developed
    • Five hours on south site, middle of the day, students can stop by and plant a sapling and paint their pot
      • Plants can go with students or be left to decorate the garden

Social Media Team

The social media team was working on spreading the word on more sustainable practices by gathering stories from our local heroes and making signage with important Waller Creek information.

Signs

These signs were to be printed and mounted on A-frames that were built by the Installation team.

Sign-Battle-of-Waller-Creek
Sign-Creek-Monster-Habitat
Sign-Contaminants
Sign-Pollinator-Garden
Sign-Macroinvertebrates
Sign-Sound-Garden
Sign-Vision-of-Waller-Creek
Sign-Procession
Sign-Urban-Ecosystems

Social Media Content

Survey

The Pivot

Unfortunately, our installation has yet to be realized. In the middle of the planning, the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19 hit.

We thought long and hard about how we would make our installation digital. Ultimately we decided to put a major spotlight on our UT community.

Since the Mental Wellness team had initial plans of recording Promises to be played in front of the Bass Concert Hall for the Earth Day Walk, in collaboration with the Social Media team, we decided to make it all digital.

We set up a phone number where the community could leave their promises and they delivered.

After those promises were collected, short videos were made and all throughout Earth Day they were posted on our social media.

Our Local Heroes videos, Community Selfie videos, and Promise videos can be found on various playlists on our Facebook page.