The Common Waters Demonstration Project is a celebration of Lady Bird Lake by intersecting art, activism, environment, and community with a collaborative art installation to inform the Trail Conservancy’s Art + Culture Plan. The Common Waters project highlights the beauty and importance of Lady Bird Lake, the heart and common connector behind the Austin community.
Artists Rejina Thomas, Ruben Esquivel, and Taylor Davis designed, fabricated, and installed a 10’ x 15’ floating wetland on Lady Bird Lake. These artists have a profound understanding of the history and culture of the minority communities in Austin and have a shared goal of honoring those communities. TTC, an environmental artist, Stacy Levy, and Austin-based curator, Public City, joined together with these artists to make this goal a reality.
The wetland is comprised of two components, the wetland and a natural sculpture that takes the shape of a nest. Nests are symbols of safety, home, and protection. This nest serves as the ephemeral shelter for a floating wetland of native plants that are designed to filter and clean toxins from the lake. In conjunction, when we protect the minority communities of Austin, who have been the backbone of cultural creation for generations, we can also begin to clean the toxins of our city’s ancestral trauma. The main material of the sculpture, dried invasive bamboo, symbolizes the rapidly spreading change that the city faces today and how it is our responsibility to be the change for the future.
Common Waters serves as a reminder that Lady Bird Lake is an essential part of our city’s identity and how we can come together as a community to protect it and each other for future generations.
A celebration day was held on May 14, 2022. The day started with a community build with artists that was held at the Waller Beach boat launch just west of I-35 on the north shore. Volunteers joined in to help install the plants on the floating wetland and then assisted in placing the artistic “nest” in its place. A’lante Flamenco provided music and dancing for those in attendance on this special day. At noon, a team from Watershed Protection launched their boat onto the water with the floating wetland in tow while local musician, Ephraim Owens, provided a serenade on the ride for those driving the boat as well as the TTC team, volunteers, and onlookers kayaking and paddle boarding along. The wetland was met at Lakeshore on the south shore near Pleasant Valley by a cheering crowd. The artist team and TTC worked to pull the wetland off the barge and attach it onto previously set anchors in the lake. Future Front X Sustain the Mag was talking to people about inclusivity on the Trail and Art Spark by Body Shift and provided an original dance performance for the day. A blessing was given and the artist team spoke about their beautiful creation. The Trail Conservancy, AIPP, PARD, and Watershed all spoke and shared their thanks and appreciation for the collaboration. This was truly a magnificent day that will be cherished for years to come.
This project is a collaboration with the Watershed Protection Department’s Shoreline Stewardship Program, Austin Parks and Recreation, Austin Art in Public Places, The Bill Wood Foundation, Susan Vaughan Foundation, Still Water Foundation, Urban Land Institute, and Mary and Howard Yancy. We are incredibly grateful to our event sponsors: Walter P. Moore, Lorraine “Grandma” Camacho Activity Center, Art Spark/Body Shift, Future Front Martin Ecosystems, JuiceLand, Weird Tea & Beverages, Siete, and Eischen General Contracting. This day wouldn’t have been possible without their support.
Meet the Artists
Taylor Davis is a landscape architect, artist, and curator who is passionate about the intersection of landscape and public art. Her work explores how natural and urban environments can be intertwined. She has investigated cultural preservation and land stewardship in the historic Dallas Freedom Community and the possibilities of carbon sequestration in urban landscapes. Recently, she curated the show Exotify Elsewhere with Grace Sanabria, exploring the oppression and exclusion of the culture and bodies of women of color.
Ruben Esquivel is an artist and a creative maker of Mexican, Spanish, and Native American descent born in Austin, Texas. Ruben is a muralist, canvas artist, and designer and credits his exposure to various creative outlets growing up to pursuing a multidisciplinary art career. After studying art history in Italy in 2013, Ruben returned to Austin and completed an internship with a local art collective that led to a full-time position. Since then, Ruben has immersed himself in the creative industry through artist management, event production, mural painting, and graphic design. In 2021, Ruben founded East End Eclectic, a creative agency that serves artists through management services and consulting. His current focus is expanding his portfolio and creating large scale murals in his hometown.
Rejina Thomas is a maker of art, connector of culture, and creator of community. Her acclaimed artwork is widely held in many collections around the world and her clients range from Ann Richards, the Democratic National Convention, Human Rights Commission, to the Queen of England. Thomas ignited Austin’s eastside arts scene with her Pine Street Station Studios, and her thought-provoking exhibit Ascension was shown recently at the George Washington Carver Museum in Oct. 2017 through Feb. 2018.
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