This half-acre pocket park brings creative and whimsical art to an old electrical substation.
Art in Public Places, in collaboration with the North University Neighborhood Association (NUNA), commissioned Berthold Haas to create permanent public art for a former Austin Energy substation site that was recently transformed to a public park. Named by residents for the electrical sparks that sometimes came from the substation, Sparky Park was converted into parkland by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. In one corner of the park, several communication towers remain, surrounded by a curvilinear cinderblock wall that became the focal point for the public art project.
Grotto Wall at Sparky Park transforms an existing cinderblock wall into a sculptural landscape of trees and curiosities. Stone harvested and donated from a ranch in the Hill Country is laid in horizontal layers, alluding to an open landscape. Whimsical trees, constructed with petrified wood and stone, resonate with the natural trees in the park. Berthold worked closely with the neighborhood throughout the making of Grotto Wall. Objects contributed by residents are playfully embedded in the wall, sometimes revealed in the seashell canopies of trees as if they were fruit. Arches extend from the wall and rest on columns that define passageways for discovery. The columns are crowned by reflective gazing balls and sections of the old substation’s energy towers. Mementos of the parkland’s history characterize Berthold’s mélange, telling the story of the pocket park and the community who made it happen.
Here’s the view from the street.
My kids had fun walking around and looking at the details of the wall.
The boys are still talking about all of the fossils and petrified wood.
Here’s even more petrified wood.
Look at the colors….
….and attention to detail.
The old substation building is still standing.
There’s also a small lawn where kids can run and play. Or, if you plan ahead, you can bring a picnic lunch or snacks to enjoy.
Austin Active Kids Opinion: Austin at its best–unique, whimsical & fun
Outing Time: 30 – 45 minutes
Reminders: Sparky Park does not have restrooms or water fountains.