In an effort unique to Parking and Transportation Services (PTS), the parking division of the department supported this year’s TEDxUTAustin event held March 5 through 6, 2021. TEDxUTAustin is an independently organized and student-led annual event that draws upon the university’s students, faculty and staff to host inspiring talks and exhibit displays in the spirit of TED Talks. As in past years, the purpose of the 2021 event was to share ideas, inspire creativity and create community, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event had to be mostly remote. With support from PTS, TEDxUTAustin was able to reach more than 1,000 visitors to the organization’s Hear+Now drive-thru art exhibit.
When event organizers reached out to PTS to see if using one of the university’s garages would work for the exhibit, PTS quickly began helping coordinate the use of the San Antonio Garage (SAG) to accommodate the 17 local artists from both UT and the Austin community involved in Hear+Now. The exhibit included large-scale light, video, sound and sculptural installations that attendees could observe from the safety of their cars.
The exhibit occupied roughly half of SAG. According to PTS Assistant Director Dennis Delaney, it was the largest event held in a UT campus garage to date.
“The TEDxUTAustin project was a unique experience that made this an exciting opportunity to work directly with students in a collaborative way,” Delaney said. “PTS always strives to give back to the university, and we look forward to future opportunities.”
Delaney explained that the biggest challenge PTS faced was that garages are not designed for people to stand and walk around in for long periods. They are specifically designed for cars to park. Garages have been used in the past for other events on campus but never for an event as large as the TEDxUTAustin exhibit. Timing was also a challenge for PTS, as set-up began on Feb. 27 following the winter weather storm. Due to the storm’s impact, PTS had to work rapidly to get their work completed in time for the event.
Delaney noted that the university’s safety measures around COVID-19 require anyone holding an event on campus with more than 10 people to get approval from Campus Safety and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). PTS helped the TEDxUTAustin organizers coordinate these approvals.
“PTS also obtained the necessary permits to hold the event and arranged parking for the executive and installation teams who organized the event as well as for those who attended the drive-thru exhibition,” Delaney said. “There were 550 permits issued per day.”
The PTS team worked together with the event organizers to assess and address their needs, handled garage traffic control such as putting up barricades and met with event staff every evening to remove and put away ladders to ensure against loss of university property, Delaney noted. Together the PTS team helped to achieve a successful event for TEDxUTAustin.