Exploring Portal Potty and more at Creek Show 2022

November 20, 2022

A cold drizzle on Friday didn’t stop me from checking out the Waterloo Greenway’s Creek Show, an “annual display of illuminated art” on the banks of Waller Creek in downtown Austin.

I go every year with family or friends to explore creative light sculptures. Last year’s Creek Show abandoned the creek in favor of the Waterloo Park facility. But this year it’s back along the lower creek (where monsters lie in wait?), with vendors and live music set up for pre- or post-show fun in the park.

Portal ribbon

A preview of the portal as you approach it

Portal ribbon The installation I most wanted to see was by Salmo Song. A row of porta-potties that transport you to another dimension? As long as it doesn’t leak, I’ll go. Here are the official details:

“Like an urban wardrobe in Narnia, this magical corridor of porta potties is a seamless tunnel of disco lights and whimsy. All fixtures on the interior walls and portal potties have been removed, creating a hallway lit by glowing LED strips and panels, with an exit behind that is not visible to outside visitors. The silhouettes of those who enter disappear at the end of the tunnel, creating the illusion that entrants have been magically transported to Creek Show 2022. This installation is a smile and a wink place to look past the surface of things and find unexpected beauty.”

Entering the “hidden” entrance at the back.

Slip on a pair of 3-D glasses, and the magic portal is revealed. Off we go, to the Creek Show!

dream pants

Next is up dream pants By Bade-Schaffer:

“In that twilight hour between waking and sleeping, I became aware of a flickering dream. Along the forgotten creek, strange sights called to me. Pants, just pants, frolicked about. They laughed and whispered, ‘Hey, check it out!’ They flashed a light of promise, saying that soon this place would be happy and well. Thanks for sharing your secret Dream Pants! I am very happy! (I don’t think I can keep it.)

Black light-lit pants sitting on bench playing guitar and listening. Note the pants in the background with actual people in them Were they part of the installation? We weren’t sure.

Other pants are wading and wading in the creek or sitting on the banks.

A family of pants on blankets with plates of food (HoHos?) spread out before them.

And a pink pair of mom jeans with a tiny pair of pants lying inside pushes a baby stroller. dream pants It was uncomfortable enough to become a surprise hit with our group.


We got under a bridge Neoncity A cheerful, neon-colored rendering of the Austin skyline, by AIA Austin:

“NeonCity is an abstract representation of Austin’s downtown skyline at Waller Creek. The exhibit depicts the city’s colorful and vibrant energy that can be admired across Lady Bird Lake, the lights of downtown and its reflection in the water. As the city expands, these building blocks represent growth and potential opportunities as Austin becomes an ever-evolving city that creates opportunities for more people to come together as a community.”

Enter Dragonfly

Enter Dragonfly Odonata attracted me with the giant, colorful dragonflies that seemed to swoop and dive above the creek.

Here are the official details:

“Enter the Dragonfly envisions the ecological restoration and transformation of Waller Creek as a healthy habitat for a diversity of natural life. Dragonflies are one of the oldest and most reliable indicator species of a rich and stable aquatic ecosystem.

Enter the Dragonfly features larger-than-life metallic dragonflies hovering over creek water, their reflections glowing beneath them. Using scale and light, the sculptures draw attention to the critical relationship between the urban and natural environment while inspiring curiosity, excitement and thoughtful engagement in visitors with the Waterloo Greenway’s mission.”

Changing colors…


Next is up Serious By the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) of Central Texas:

To be marginalized in America
Must be a star in the face of midnight.
We must constantly rise above everything
And ours shines bright
When it’s dark outside. – Rudy Francisco

“A Visual Translation of the Serious Poem margin by African-American spoken word poet Rudy Francisco. Francisco’s oeuvre confronts issues of race and politics in and of itself margin, he expresses the eroding sense of marginality through the beauty of heavenly imagery. While emphasizing a star’s solidarity and comparing it to social exclusion, he challenges us to use ‘our brightest’ as an example for social change.

Through a scenic path drawn from Waller Creek, NOMA’s Sirius breaks the rigidity of the bridge’s infrastructure and guides users through a collection of star-laden vessels – a visual representation of the beauty and power of marginal communities. When we come together we shine through the darkness.”


Luna Designed by the Austin Foundation for Architecture to look like a drainage pipe in a stone wall under a bridge. A mirror hanging on the wall and lighting create the illusion.

“The dance between the Moon and Earth’s water bodies is as old as time itself. From influencing the tides along our coasts, to controlling the rainfall that feeds our inland rivers, unseen forces are at work before our eyes. LUNA seeks to illuminate the invisible bond between our environment and each other. With its reflective materiality, the installation serves as a symbol of diversity and equity, encouraging reflection on the idea that we all contribute to the future of our urban fabric. The infinite effect of light and mirror creates a space for everyone and points to the endless possibilities that we all represent in our city of Austin.”


Environmental commentary is a popular theme at the Creek Show each year, and Inventory Lawrence Group filled that space this year:

“Joseph Jones, the late UT professor and champion of Waller Creek, used to spend his lunch hour walking along the creek where it runs through campus, keeping an ‘inventory’ of things he saw and found – including plants and animals, beer cups and plastic bags – galore. Acknowledging signs of human presence amidst natural beauty. For our installation, we’re channeling our inner Joseph Jones and collecting hundreds of used plastic bottles directly from the creek and other local sources, coating the insides with luminous paint and arranging them geometrically just above the water’s surface. We’ll then shine ultraviolet light across the peaks to reveal fields of bright objects – a brilliant ‘inventory’ of rubbish – highlighting the human contribution to this amazing ‘Cretaceous limestone sewer’ story.’

good vibes

good vibes My favorite installation by Studio 5-1-2 is over, for sheer disco balls and stalactite sparkles.

“Good-Vibrations is a celebration of the hidden landscapes that move beneath our feet and bring them to the surface to shape our urban environment. Inspired by stalagmite and stalactite formations in caves, this installation drips and cascades over Waller Creek to recreate the experience of a cave. The forms are covered with pieces of mirror and spotlighted to diffuse light in the spirit of a disco, echoing the sounds of dripping water and the chirping of bats (with some remixes of these). We encourage participants to celebrate the subterranean landscape with good vibes by immersing themselves in an experience that uses light and sound to highlight the rich interactions and dance of life’s organisms.”

Illuminated bats swoop under the bridge, as their chirping echoes through the mirror-ball cave.

Waterloo Park

There is one night left in the 10-day run if you want to take part in the Creek Show. Free advance reservations are recommended to ensure entry, so sign up now, as spots are limited. Organizers had to cancel several evenings due to rain to make this happen. But if Creek Monster allows it, it’s a fun show to experience.

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dig deep

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All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Excavation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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