White Rock Lake Water Theater can’t be saved, but can it be rebuilt?

Birds at White Rock Lake Water Theater behind the Bath House Cultural Center. Photo by Hilary Schleier
Birds at White Rock Lake Water Theater behind the Bath House Cultural Center. Photo by Hilary Schleier

It’s been over a year since the fate of the White Rock Lake Water Theater came into question. The Cultural Affairs Commission and the local arts community has been debating on whether to remove the deteriorated public art piece or find funds to restore it.

Now, after the release of an engineering study that shed more light on the artwork’s poor condition, the Public Art Committee has recommended that a contract be issued to the neighborhoods artists, Frances Bagley and Tom Orr, to create a new piece of public art that “re-envisions the ideas of the Water Theater.”

“The new public artwork would be designed for sustainability and would be located in a place that does not currently have public art,” interim director David Fisher says.

The White Rock Lake Water Theater was installed partially underwater in the shore near the Bath House Cultural Center in 2001, consisting of 43 steel poles, 25 polycarbonate light poles, 10 cast stone land elements, 12 aluminum educational wildlife charts and one solar panel system. The piece was meant to provide a perch for the birds of White Rock Lake and help educate people about area wildlife.

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The city eliminated its maintenance budget for public art in 2009 but restored the funds this year, employing a collections manager to oversee the process.

The engineering report concluded that the Water Theater would have to be completely replaced, costing an estimated $198,375. The steel posts and their anchors have “failed completely.” Simply repairing the piece is not enough. The removal process would result in too much damage. The engineer, Charles Gojer, states in the report:

“In my professional opinion, the structural steel components of the artwork have lots their strength and the pipes will continue lean and fail … Therefore, I recommend that the pipes be removed from the lake and that the artwork, if reconstructed at this or any other location, be re-designed using stainless steel materials.”

You can read all the details of the report here.

The Cultural Affairs Commission will review the study and the committee’s recommendation during a 4:30 p.m. meeting Feb. 19 at the Latino Cultural Center.


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