Looking Back on 2020’s Waller Creek Project

Early brainstorming for the Waller Creek Earth Day Project, taken in January.

What a year these past few weeks have been. Gatherings like the one pictured above feel like a distant memory at this point.

I had initially gone into this project just hoping to get some audio hardware experience under my belt, but quickly found myself becoming invested and excited to share the creek with the rest of the campus. Creating student relaxation areas from the creek’s natural ambience as well as efforts to lead creek clean-ups were constantly at the front of my mind. I was eager to make the UT community more cognizant of Waller Creek and for the physical area to become a small hotspot for the student body. The prospect of the physical soundscape becoming a more permanent installment in the future was even more exciting!

As March began to barrel down at us and news of a virus on the other side of the world closed in on us though, my enthusiasm admittedly gave way to resignation. First, our additional in-person events were cancelled; next, our main Earth Day events. Finally, the soundscape itself fell through the cracks as the campus was closed to non-essential bodies. It would be hard for someone not to throw their hands up into the air and leave the project on the cutting room floor. The rest of my classmates marched on though, and I was compelled to do the same. Now that we’re in the midst of creating production books that will allow future classes to finish what we’ve started, it’s given me time to reflect on what exactly I was hoping to accomplish with the Waller Creek Project.

What I became most excited for with this project was the prototyping of a future outdoor student relaxation area via the soundscape. Being able to have a hand in creating an environment that can give back to the student body would have been wonderful. After learning about the various contaminants in the creek, I was also hoping to help educate the campus on the impact and ways they could get involved in cleanup. This project has opened my eyes to the plethora of organizations, services, and classes that UT houses dealing with the various facets of environmental wellbeing. Sharing this awareness is something I hope the project has still achieved, even in its entirely digital form. As a quick aside, I applaud all my classmates for the hard work they’ve put into this project since day one and for adapting so quickly to the project’s new form. There was also a surprising intersection with mental wellbeing, and I deeply appreciate now being aware of these materials and services such as the MindBody Labs.

I hope that once this project is seen through to completion, the student body at UT becomes more conscious and conscientious of the very land we learn on, as working on the project has done for me.

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