Its picturesque green backdrop, natural spring waters, and brisk 68-degree temps have made Barton Springs a beloved destination for generations of Austinites. This summer, a new art exhibition is celebrating the famed springs while capturing the spirit and beauty of one of Texas' greatest natural treasures.
Now open in the Sheffield Education Center, "Faces of Barton Springs" invites visitors to explore the unique and intimate moments of swimmers as they pass through the springs, while inviting visitors to share their own memories.
The capstone of the exhibition is a 12-foot long collage of personal images from Barton Springs swimmers ranging from amateur photographers to big-name local artists including Randal Ford, Valerie Fowler, Nelson Guda, Nils Juul-Hansen, and Sam Hurt. Each photo corresponds with a number and key which unlocks a handwritten message from the original photographer about the significance of the springs to them.
Visitors are encouraged to tell their own story by creating poetry on the magnetized Susan Bright memorial tree or sharing a personal reflection at the community kiosk. The show also features several listening stations where visitors can hear stories from other springs lovers.
“[The installation] is an attempt to educate people about many aspects of the springs, the incredible value that it has for the community, and give people the opportunity to express that,” Karen Kocher, who along with Lauren Jaben, curated the project.
For Kocher, an Austin-based media producer and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the exhibition is an extension of "Living Springs," her personal transmedia project archiving the 70-year history of Austin's natural crown jewel.
A collection of interviews, videos, and documents, "Living Springs" tells the collective story of Barton Springs as it exists at the intersection of Austin art, culture, science, and spirituality. Kocher hopes the project will create an easily accessible record of the springs' past, while presently chronicling it today.
As an ongoing collaboration of artists, award-winning musicians and, of course, the Austin community, "Faces of Barton Springs" promises something new with each visit. And, although the show comes to a close on July 31, co-curator Jaben, says she hopes to preserve its extensive body of work for public display in the future.