History of Austin

West Austin school embarks on 100-year journey with public art project

West Austin school embarks on 100-year journey with public art project

Mathews Elementary time capsule
The time capsules are to be opened in 20- and 100-year increments. Photo courtesy of Mathews Elementary School
Mathews Elementary time capsule
The dedication ceremony in 2017. Photo courtesy of Mathews Elementary School
Mathews Elementary time capsule
Mayor Adler officially declared May 30 Mathews Elementary School Time Capsule Day. Photo courtesy of Mathews Elementary School
Mathews Elementary time capsule
Mathews Elementary time capsule
Mathews Elementary time capsule

In 2017, a Clarksville elementary school embarked on a century-long journey led by a group of dedicated parents and students. The Mathews Elementary Time Capsule was conceived to commemorate the school's centennial anniversary, but also as a public art project inspired by the weird and creative culture of both Mathews and the city itself. 

The capsule, composed of two titanium Pelican cases sealed into the 48-inch square steel-and-concrete vault, was installed on the front lawn of the school at 906 W. Lynn St. along with a four-foot-tall bronze statue of Mazilla, the school's unofficial mascot, designed by artist/parent BJ Heinley in the fall of 2016.

The capsule is divided into two separate timelines: the 20-year box and the 100-year box. The 20-year box will be catalogued, celebrated, and refilled every two decades, beginning in 2036, while the 100-year box case will remain in the steel chamber until the 2116-2117 bicentennial school year. The bronze door of the time capsule vault is cast with a verse written by Mathews parent and alum Jennifer Binford-Appel that invites the viewer back to Mathews for a reunion at future openings.

To fund the project, a committee of Mathews parents and students raised the entire $36,000 for both the capsule and statue using a Kickstarter campaign; a Playland skate party; a Tacos of Texas taco party at Sazon; a Porch Portraits project (photos of homes and families by photographer Jessica Klima, along with their stories); and donations from the Old West Austin Neighborhood Association and the Heinley family. 

In addition to the Porch Portraits, the contents include memory cards from all 425 students, photos from around the school and neighborhood; 100th birthday T-shirts; bumper stickers; patches; a fidget spinner; a pink cat hat; and other toys, newspapers, and ephemera from the 2016-2017 school year.

The resealable steel vault contains two Pelican cases, along with clear instructions and dates directing when each should be opened. Several copies of the instructions are stored in the school safe inside the Mathews office.  

On May 30, 2017, the Mathews Elementary Time Capsule was officially dedicated by members of the student body, capping off a year-long celebration of the 100th birthday of this Central Austin public school. In honor of the centennial, Mayor Steve Adler officially declared May 30 to be Mathews Elementary Centennial Time Capsule Day in a proclamation that was read at the dedication ceremony by sixth grader Mateo Carrasco.