Ambient music filled the air around a luminescent dome of leaves and sticks as onlookers explored the mysterious Waller Creek Monster Habitat.
The display is one of the light sculptures that make up Waterloo Greenway Conservancy’s Creek Show, which started Nov. 7 at Waller Creek between 9th and 12th streets. A team of students at Texas Applied Arts, a program of UT’s College of Fine Arts, created Waller Creek Monster Habitat in reference to the show’s mascot. Meredith Bossin, the Waller Creek Conservancy’s director of engagement, said this is the first student group to contribute in the show’s six-year run.
“Every installation has to take some point of inspiration from the creek,” Bossin said. “It could be about the history or something about the environment. How the artists wanted to tell the story in the pieces are all different and diverse in design, and that was what we were looking for.”
Karen Maness, scenic art supervisor with Texas Performing Arts, said the interdisciplinary team created the light display as part of her design projects class. After the light show ends on Nov. 17, Maness said she wants to install the sculpture along Waller Creek near the College of Fine Arts on Earth Day next year. She said the installation might help students connect more with nature, which could relieve some of their anxiety.
“There is a pretty serious anxiety epidemic happening with contemporary college students, and we are looking for some solutions to that,” Maness said. “We want to use this art installation to draw attention to this complex riparian habitat that is in our backyard.”
The dome is crafted out of natural materials, string lights, glass bulbs and steel framing. Black lights around the dome create the illusion that it is glowing, and six eyes occasionally light up from under the foliage, alluding that the creek monster is watching onlookers. Bossin said the UT sculpture was mainly looking to expand on the folklore surrounding the creek and the creatures living there, and this was what made its concept so unique.
“The UT Creek Monster Habitat is exploring what the little critter is,” Bossin said. “They really wanted to develop some of the story around the creek and inspire people’s intrigue.”
Theater graduate student Samantha Cole said her lighting team designed the eyes. She said the team wanted the eyes to blink, but they had to modify the original concept because of environmental and spatial constraints. Although she could not create her original vision, she said watching people react and interact with the display was rewarding enough.
“There was a little kid who pointed at the eyes and said, ‘Mom, there!’” Cole said. “And of course, by the time mom turned around they had turned off again and turned on somewhere else, and the kid ran all over pointing them out. That was the moment I realized we had succeeded, and people were excited to see the monster was home.”