Mueller Austin

Meet Chris Levack: Creating Art and Soul at Mueller

July 31, 2014

Whether you’re driving along Manor Road or enjoying the hike and bike trail of Mueller’s Southwest Greenway, you’re bound to come across two famous pieces of artwork. The larger than life “Pollen Grain” and the “Wigwam” have become local favorites and without them, Mueller’s Southwest Greenway wouldn’t be the same.

Local artist and sculptor Chris Levack created these striking pieces of public art. Levack says he’s had a connection to the Texas Hill Country all his life. Raised in Austin, Levack says the rugged beauty of the Texas landscape inspired his unique art.

Levack has lived adjacent to the Mueller community for years. As a Delwood II resident since 2000, he and his wife, Laura, remember the airport closing in 1999, and anxiously awaiting what the future would hold for the 700 acres of land directly behind their home.

“I remember thinking this Mueller development would be a major deal,” said Levack. “I think the world of Catellus and the City because they built this brilliant, cutting edge development. We’re so lucky it turned out the way it did.”

Levack had a chance to bring his own artwork to Mueller. In 2008, he was asked to collaborate with RVI Planning + Landscape Architecture to develop concepts and ideas for the 32-acre Southwest Greenway.

It took a few months of concept planning, gathering materials and advanced geometry to build the two large-scale pieces of steel artwork that now grace the greenway, spur conversation and build a sense of community that is central to the Mueller vision. Having always been drawn to outdoor sculptures, Levack knew he had to create something that would both complement and endure the Texas elements.

“It was one thing to finish the pieces of artwork,” said Levack, “but it was another thing to watch a perfectly integrated and inspiring landscape house them.”

Levack describes the “Wigwam” as a wayfinding centerpiece that draws on the history of the land itself, including the area’s blackland prairie that was restored after removing the airport’s tarmac.

With its 10-foot legs, the “Pollen Grain” structure is Levack’s pride and joy. The nature-focused artwork represents a single cactus pollen enlarged 30,000 times its size. The steel rings represent the pollen’s cells and its tall design allows park goers to walk or jog underneath the structure.

“In a way, we wanted to make ‘Pollen Grain’ a piece of natural education,” said Levack. “It’s similar to a roadside attraction in the fact that it’s the world’s biggest piece of pollen.”

While Levack takes pride in seeing his own work in the parks so close to home, he also values the importance of Mueller’s historic icons like the airport control tower and Browning Hangar.

“I’m inspired by the combo of old and new—it makes for a great dynamic,” said Levack. “Mueller is surrounded by beautiful old neighborhoods, but it’s nice to have something evolving and changing right in front of our eyes.”

These days a vast majority of Levack’s work is residential, sculpting inspiring outdoor environments including decks, planters, screens, fences, gates and shade for limited outdoor spaces. He takes on public projects every other year and his work can be found in some of Austin’s most prominent spaces, including the Domain, Whole Foods Market headquarters and the City of Austin Skate Park.

“I feel very strongly about the effects of public art and sculptures in the community,” said Levack. “Public artwork is really for the citizens to enjoy and have a collective ownership of; there’s a positive impact that results from that.”

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Development Map for the Community

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The Mueller Design Book

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