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White Rock Water Theater Gets Negative Engineering Report

by Jerome Weeks 10 Feb 2015 6:35 PM

White Rock Wildlife Water Theater. Photo: Jerome Weeks

A controversial artwork standing in the water of White Rock Lake may be getting yanked out. KERA’s Jerome Weeks says the work has gotten a negative engineering report commissioned by the city of Dallas.

White Rock Wildlife Water Theater is made of some 60 metal poles installed in 2001 near the Bath House Cultural Center. But the work has not been maintained for years because of repeated budget cutbacks to the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Neighborhood groups complain it’s an eyesore. But artists argue it would send a bad signal if the city commissioned a work, neglected it and then destroyed it. Last year, the Water Theater was put on a national list of endangered public artworks. Today, the city’s engineering report concluded the steel system supporting the artwork has failed completely.

David Fisher is head of the Office of Cultural Affairs. He says, “Given the engineering report, there are some significant issues with it. Could it be rebuilt? Yes. Is that the best decision in this case? I’m not sure.”

A complete restoration of the Water Theater would cost close to $200,000 — or almost half of all the city’s budget allocated for public art proposed in August.

Fisher says one solution that’s been floated is to commission Tom Orr and Frances Bagley, the Dallas husband-and-wife artists who designed the Water Theater. They would design a new work for a new location on the lake — within the guidelines that have been established since 2001 for what can and cannot be built at White Rock. In a prepared statement, the artists said, “We applaud the Office of Cultural Affairs for proposing a win/win solution to the removal of Dallas’ only environmental public art work.A re-envision of the concept in a different location is an exciting prospect. We look forward to the opportunity to further investigate that possibility.”

A final decision may be made by the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission in a vote on Feb. 19.