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Art project is making splash at Deep Eddy

Pam LeBlanc, Fit City

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Former art teacher Wanda Montemayor, left, and ceramics artist Lisa Orr enlisted the help of hundreds of volunteers to install the tiles for the 1,200-square-foot mural at Deep Eddy Pool.

It's hard to imagine what Deep Eddy Pool looked like in the 1920s, when bathers slid down a towering slide, rode a zip line across the spring-fed waters and watched a diving horse act perform.

Happily, a new mural on a wheelchair access ramp that swoops toward Lady Bird Lake in adjacent A.J. Eilers Park now tells some of that history in a glistening mosaic.

The piece is part of the city's Art in Public Places program.

The flowing, sparkling wave of blue, green and white covers about 1,200 square feet of what was once an ugly expanse of concrete. More than 40,000 tiles and bits of irregularly shaped glass depict the early days of the oldest swimming pool in Texas.

Wanda Montemayor, 37, a former art teacher who now works as a counselor at O. Henry Middle School, dove into the project five years ago after a member of the Friends of Deep Eddy suggested that she design a mural for the spot.

The mastermind behind mosaics at Fulmore Middle School and O. Henry Middle School, she loved the idea. She walked up and down Lake Austin Boulevard with a mock-up of the mosaic, visiting business to try to raise money and support to make the mural.

"Deep Eddy found me," she says. "Then I fell in love with it."

She teamed with ceramics artist Lisa Orr, 50, to create a storytelling panel based on historical images from the Austin History Center. The artwork also features fish and birds that live along the Colorado River, which runs alongside the pool.

"The colors we used were specific," Montemayor says. "We wanted it to look like the vintage postcards with a watercolor wash."

Montemayor is trained in art therapy, and she wanted community members to help her create the artwork so they would feel connected to it.

About 2,000 students from Austin High School, O. Henry Middle School, Bailey Middle School, Travis High School, St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Murchison Middle School, Lanier High School, and the Khabele Upper and Lower Schools pitched in, turning 12,000 pounds of clay into handmade tiles, each one etched with a personal message.

Hundreds more volunteers embedded the pieces into wet cement when installation began June 10.

Often, the artists would take a dip in the pool before they started their day's work.

Montemayor, with the help of Friends of Deep Eddy, a nonprofit group that supports the spring-fed pool, raised about $10,000 for the project, done in partnership with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department. Last year, the city's Art in Public Places program announced $41,400 in funding for it as part of the Deep Eddy Pool Shell Renovation Capital Improvement Project.

Work on the mural should be finished later this month. It will be dedicated this fall.

Local filmmaker Gil Garcia is creating a documentary about the making of the mural.

"Deep Eddy is such a beautiful and powerful place," Montemayor says of the non-chlorinated public swimming pool.

For more information, go to www.deepeddymural.org .

You can hardly make it to the start line of a foot race these days without spotting someone who's running without shoes.

Come Sept. 24, Central Texas barefooters will have an entire race to themselves. The Merrell Naked Foot 5K is scheduled for that day at Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park.

Proponents of barefoot running say running without shoes can help prevent injuries and improve form. Modern running shoes, they say, cushion the foot too much and muffle any feedback from the body. Take the shoes off and the discomfort of improper form will keep you in check.

The Austin race is part of a new national barefoot race series that includes events in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Boulder, Colo.

Founders Scott and Lauren Jones call themselves "barefoot moderates." They run about 10 percent of their weekly training miles barefoot but say they recognize there is a time and a place for a good pair of shoes, too.

Prefer to run with shoes on your feet? You won't be turned away.

Besides the 5K, the event will include a free kids' fun run, foot massages, foot painting, barefoot games, green and healthy living vendors, prizes and more. Organizers will also collect gently worn footwear and donations for Soles4Souls, a Nashville, Tenn.-based charity that collects and distributes shoes to people in need.

For more information and to register, go to www.the nakedfoot5k.com .