Dances for city pools and their people

The Project

My Park, My Pool, My City was a three-year artistic residency led by Forklift Danceworks in partnership with the City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department’s Aquatics Division and several East Austin neighborhoods. Using collaborative art making, My Park, My Pool, My City activated and amplified civic engagement around the future of Austin’s city pools.

Austin faces a severe infrastructure crisis due to the high cost of maintaining an aging aquatics system where most pools are 50+ years old. This issue is confounded by class and racial privilege as wealthier residents can choose to use private country clubs or backyard swimming pools while poorer residents have few or no options for swimming when public pools are closed or under-resourced. With the release of an Aquatics assessment and first ever Aquatics Master Plan, momentum was growing city-wide to find the means to maintain a more sustainable, accessible, and equitable public pool system. In November 2018, Austinites addressed this concern by voting in favor of a city bond package that included $40 million designated towards the Aquatics system.

My Park, My Pool, My City was conceived after a successful collaboration between Forklift Danceworks and Austin’s Urban Forestry Program in 2015, when Sarah Hensley, then Director of Austin’s Parks & Recreation Department, turned to Forklift’s lead artists Allison Orr and Krissie Marty and asked, “Will you please do pools next?” Honored and somewhat perplexed, Allison and Krissie spent two years in conversations and planning meetings with Austin’s Aquatics Division. Through listening to city staff and residents, they came to more fully understand the importance of pools as public gathering spaces and the challenges Austin’s pools currently face.

Each year for three years starting in 2017, My Park, My Pool, My City centered on one East Austin neighborhood. In addition to three summer performances, Forklift Danceworks hosted and participated in town hall gatherings, community workshops, film screenings, and—of course—pool parties leading up to and following each show.

With My Park, My Pool, My City, Forklift Danceworks brought together citizens, city staff and policy makers in a creative participatory process to encourage people to talk about this policy issue as it unfolds.

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The Performances

Bartholomew Swims

July 21, 22, 28, & 29th, 2017

Bartholomew Municipal Pool

The first in a trilogy of pool performances featuring City of Austin Aquatics maintenance staff, lifeguards, and neighborhood residents young and old.

Nadamos Dove Springs

July 12, 13, 14, & 15th, 2018

Dove Springs Pool

The second in a trilogy of pool performances featuring City of Austin Aquatics staff and Dove Springs community members.

Givens Swims

July 20, 21, 27 & 28th 2019

Givens Neighborhood Pool

The last in a trilogy of pool performances featuring City of Austin Aquatic staff and East Austin residents.

The Pools

Austin’s public pools are vital community gathering spaces, especially during the long, hot Texas summer. The city’s Aquatics division provides access to safe and free/low-cost places to swim. One of the largest Aquatics systems in the country, the division manages over 51 bodies of water.

Austin’s pools, however, are on average 50 years old, and many need more repairs than the city can afford. Conditions are particularly acute in the historically marginalized neighborhoods of East Austin. As these neighborhoods expand and their demographics shift, My Park, My Pool, My City is, in part, an opportunity to celebrate and maintain the vibrant histories of these communities, and to bring Austinites together at the pool.

Bartholomew Pool

1800 E 51st St.

This pool in Northeast Austin has served the Windsor Park, Mueller, and Preswyck Hills neighborhoods since 1961.

Dove Springs Pool

5701 Ainez Dr.

Built in 1994, Dove Springs Pool is part of the Dove Springs Recreation Center in Southeast Austin.

Givens Pool

3811 E 12th St.

Built in 1958 to serve the black community of Central East Austin, Givens Pool carries a rich history.

The People

Marcus Fowler Performed in Bartholomew Swims, Dove Springs Swims, and Givens Swims
Allen Catterson Dove Springs Swims and Givens Swims
Gretchen LaMotte Assistant Choreographer
Fabiola Torralba Assistant Choreographer
Miriam Conner Community Engagement Coordinator
NOOK Turner performed in Givens Swims
Kenneth Thompson performed in Givens Swims
Arturo Hernandez Artistic Intern for Givens Swims
Ernesto Hernandez Commissioned Artist for Givens Swims
Cindy Elizabeth Commissioned Artist for Givens Swims
Ricardo Zavala performed in Dove Springs Swims
Ofelia Zapata performed in Dove Springs Swims
Stephen Pruitt Production Designer
Graham Reynolds Composer
Joe Sanchez performed in Dove Springs Swims
Citizens Advisory Committee
Maya Kidd performed in Bartholomew Swims
Mario Navarrete performed in Bartholomew Swims and Dove Springs Swims
Neighborhood Kids performed in Bartholomew Swims
Juan Hernandez performed in Bartholomew Swims and Dove Springs Swims
Jonathan “Tap” Tapscott performed in Bartholomew Swims and Dove Springs Swims
The Directors
Arlene Youngblood performed in Bartholomew Swims, Dove Springs Swims, and Givens Swims
Anaires Rizo performed in Bartholomew Swims & Givens Swims

Forklift Danceworks

Since 2001, Forklift Danceworks has presented over 25 distinct community-based dance projects. Collaborators have included sanitation workers, warehouse employees, and power linemen. The company’s performances seek to create greater connection between citizens and across communities, deeper understanding of the jobs essential to urban life, and more informed civic dialogue. Presented in large-scale, site-specific settings, Forklift Danceworks’ free performances consistently play to capacity with audiences of 500-6,000 people.