Sticks and Stones

See Austin's whimsical new public art installation before it all falls down

See Austin's whimsical new art installation before it all falls down

Stickworks Pease Park
The Pease Park edition of Stickwork will be unveiled to the public in February.  Courtesy photo

Artists toil over their work for months, years, sometimes entire lifetimes, so it's only natural that they would want their pieces carefully preserved. Not so for world-renowned artist Patrick Dougherty.

Since January 8, the artist has enlisted the help of local volunteers to construct a massive sculptural installation made entirely out of sticks. Appropriately known as Stickwork, Dougherty and his team of volunteers used seven truckloads of willow, elm, and ash sticks and saplings harvested from Stonewall, Texas to construct four whimsical huts in the middle of Pease Park.

Once completed, Stickwork will be on display for as long as Mother Nature intends, meaning that rather than break down the huts, Dougherty allows the elements to envelop the sculpture, a process that can take anywhere from 18 months to three years. Over the course of his career, North Carolina-based Dougherty has crafted more than 250 similar versions of Stickwork across the world. 

Until it's officially finished on January 26, no one — not even the artist — knows what the installation will look like. Rather than sketch or pre-plan his pieces, Dougherty uses the process itself to draw inspiration. The natural materials serve as conduits through which the piece eventually appears, and each individual volunteer lends shape to the sculpture. 

The installation, which is free to view and officially opens to the public on February 10, was commissioned by the Pease Park Conservancy, the nonprofit tasked with the rehabilitating of one of Austin's largest and most prominent green spaces. "Stickwork is a wonderful example of art for all, sparking the imagination park patrons and passersby of all ages," says Kristen Brown, CEO of Pease Park Conservancy, in a release. 

Indeed, with its prime location in the Custer's Meadow portion of the park, Stickwork will undoubtedly attract a new wave of Austinites eager to see the piece before it's gone for good. 

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Pease Park Conservancy encourages the community to experience the sculpture by weaving through it and getting close to the piece, but the group asks the public not to disturb the sticks and saplings.