This month, renowned artist Patrick Dougherty and several hundred volunteers began constructing Yippee Ki Yay: a natural sculpture made of local tree saplings and sticks in Pease Park. The installation is a communal effort, exemplifying the “People’s Park” nickname given to the area already. It is meant for everyone to experience.

We talked with Kristen Brown, CEO of the Pease Park Conservancy to learn more about the spectacular work and discuss the role of public art and parks in our community.

How did you become involved in the Pease Park Conservancy?

I have a background working for nonprofits coupled with fundraising and management experience. I was approached by the Board Members about the position in May 2017 and thought it would be a great way to get back into the nonprofit scene. I’m an Austinite, and grew up going to Pease Park so I had a connection to it already. As a public partner of the city, we have a strong partnership and appreciation for Austin.

What role do parks play in unifying a community?

Anyone living in Austin can see how quickly the city is growing and becoming more and more dense. Parks allow everyone to share a green, lush and uninhabited place without any cost. Pease Park, which is also known as “People’s Park” is just that. It has a unique location central to the city. There’s the natural beauty of Shoal Creek right next to courts for anyone to play on. A variety of people are always here because of all it has to offer.

“Patrick’s installations are striking and whimsical. They remind me of Where the Wild Things Are.”

Why is it important to include public art in the park’s plans?

People love art! What’s interesting about having art in a public space is that it causes people to see something that they might have not experienced. For example, Mystic Raven by Dave Deming is currently at Pease Park thanks to The Contemporary Austin. I’ve seen it spark curiosity among all ages and types of visitors. Art students and aficionados come to visit that piece specifically and then also get to experience the park. It’s mutually beneficial.

How do you choose what art will be in Pease Park?

For Mystic Raven, we were approached by the Contemporary to be a part of their Museum without Walls project. For the Stickwork project, one of our board members was familiar with Patrick’s art. We were all struck by the scale and natural elements he uses.

What can visitors expect to experience from Yippee Ki Yay?

You absolutely don’t need to be familiar with Patrick’s work. His installations are striking and whimsical. The magnitude and scale of his work is magnificent. A lot of it reminds me of a hut in the book Where the Wild Things Are.

Sortie de Cave/Free at Last
2008. Jardin, Chateaubourg, France
Photo: Charles Crie

It’s a community effort too?

Yes, the coolest thing is that volunteers will help him create the piece. Almost all of our volunteer spots are filled. We also received donations from the community. Every one counts just like every stick counts.

How long will Yippee Ki Yay be in the park?

Hopefully for a few years. It’s a unique piece because it will naturally decompose. After it does we plan on repurposing the sticks into mulch for the park.

Can we expect to see more art in the park?

Yes, you definitely will! Art is a mission that is a part of our Master Plan that passed in 2014. Part of the plan is also to enhance and repurpose different areas of the park that need attention without taking away from their natural elements.

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