Austin art installation promotes water conservation


by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT MCKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 25 at 1:09 PM

AUSTIN -- Anyone out on the Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake over the past couple of days has may have noticed something unusual cropping up. An art sculpture with a message is being installed.

Trail users can't help but notice the thousands of white flags that hang overhead and line the trail, but many of them have no clue what it means.

"I thought it was something for ACL actually; I don't know," said trail user A.J. Molyneaux.

"I had no earthly idea, frankly," said runner Ross Rommel.

At second glance, the message is obvious to Rommel.

"They were like pictures of dying trees -- no leaves, root systems that were kind of dry," he described.

"During the drought in 2011, we lost 300 million trees," said artist Beili Liu.

Liu is the artist behind "Thirst," an installation meant to send a message about water conservation and the drought.

"We really want to inspire conversations about water, water usage and the preservation of our resource and our trees," she explained.

The flags run about 2.5 miles along the trail, but the main part of this installation will actually sit in the center of the lake.

A 2.5 ton cedar elm tree is the heart of "Thirst."

"It's a reminder, a stark reminder, of what's at stake," said Women and Their Work Executive Director Chris Cowden.

The tree is painted white and will sit on a rod in the center of Lady Bird Lake between the Lamar and Pfluger bridges.

"It was dying on a ranch three miles outside of Austin, so we removed it with as many roots as we could," Cowden explained.

Cowden says this is the beginning of a city-wide conversation.

"This is like a starting place, a prompter to think about it and a memorialization of what we've lost," she said.

Crews tried installing the tree Tuesday but because of a leak on the barge, it had to be postponed. Organizers say hopefully it will be put in place Wednesday.

The temporary art installation will be up through December.

Go here for more information.

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