Artist in Residence: Erika Huddleston

July 13, 2014  | By Shoal Creek Conservancy

This summer, Shoal Creek Conservancy welcomes its very own artist in residence, Erika Huddleston. Erika is an artist with a background in landscape architecture and is currently working on a series of large oil paintings along Shoal Creek. While Erika was studying at the University of Texas, she became fascinated with Shoal Creek and its role as a wilderness within a growing city. She completed a series at 24th and Lamar on the creek in 2013. To observe changing conditions along the creek, she is now working at a location closer to downtown near 9th street and Duncan Park.

Erika Huddleston on Shoal Creek near 9th Street. Photo by Daniel Adams.
Erika Huddleston on Shoal Creek near 9th Street. Photo by Daniel Adams.

With her current project, she seeks to capture the conditions in Shoal Creek, focusing in particular on the impact of urbanization on the creek and the park users experience. She is painting four large canvases, measuring 60 inches by 70 inches each, with the intention of capturing the creek to scale, as if you are looking at the creek in person. Each canvas will illustrate the impact of urbanization on the creek. Some of these detrimental affects include erosion, flooding, and both habitat and water quality degradation. “I am interested in how witnessing natural changes in urban landscapes – such as flood debris that reveals the long gone rise in waters – affects the urban parkgoer’s sense of past, present, and future,” said Erika Huddleston, artist. “There is flooding and rushing water, but after a while, the creek calms and becomes peaceful again. It’s reassuring to know that no matter how chaotic nature gets, it always becomes peaceful again. Astonishingly, this flooding is allowed to happen as a controlled natural system amidst dense downtown living,” she added. Shoal Creek flooding poses a major risk, and the Conservancy is currently partnering with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department to identify and implement solutions to this issue. As development within the watershed has increased, so have the events of major flooding, including the devastating 1981 “Memorial Day Flood” that caused 13 deaths. Despite improvements to storm water management since this event, flooding continues to be a major problem in some areas of Shoal Creek, particularly in the lower reach through downtown Austin. Learn more about the health of Shoal Creek on the City’s website.

Erika Huddleston working on Shoal Creek. Photo by Daniel Adams.
Erika Huddleston working on Shoal Creek. Photo by Daniel Adams.

Through her work, Erika also seeks to raise awareness of Shoal Creek as an incredible oasis located right in the heart of downtown. “We have Shoal Creek so close to us in proximity and so easy to get to,” Erika stated, just in from a long day of painting and observing on the creek. “I want to raise awareness of the creek and trail as a great community asset and the challenges it faces as an urban waterway,” she added. If you’re on the trail this summer, you may see Erika at work on the creek downtown near Duncan Park. Stop by and say hello and enjoy her great work. “We are excited about working with Erika this summer,” said Shoal Creek Conservancy Executive Director Joanna Wolaver. “By combining her artistic ability and background in landscape architecture, her work not only beautifully portrays the creek, but also provides valuable insight into issues affecting Shoal Creek,” she added. Erika volunteers her time with the Conservancy in other ways as well, including assisting with the development of a pilot Shoal Creek Mural Series to reduce graffiti and tagging as well as creating attractive destinations along the trail. Her series will be on display beginning August 22nd at Gallery Shoal Creek. We hope to see you there! You can also learn more about her work by visiting her website. To help support the Conservancy and its mission, please join as a Founding Member today.