Up Overnight: How ACC’s monolith went from idea to reality in 48 hours

Central Texas is in the spotlight for having its own monolith pop up overnight, but this one is no mystery. Faculty, students, and former students from ACC’s Welding Department custom-built an eight-foot-tall silvery column, and installed it at the Jacob Fontaine Plaza at ACC Highland in the early morning hours Friday, December 4.

“We’re known in Austin for keeping things weird. So, when we saw mysterious monoliths popping up across the world, it made perfect sense to give Central Texas its own,” says Brette Lea, ACC vice president of Communications & Marketing (OCM). “This was a true collaborative effort across the college, and it’s something we hope our community can enjoy and celebrate.”

What started as a simple, fun idea took off with just one phone call and an email. Within hours, Jessica Vess, ACC communications director; Sharrion Jenkins, executive director of Campus Operations, Quality Control & Project Management; Brandon Whatley, Design, Manufacturing, Construction & Applied Technologies dean; and Troy DeFrates, Welding Department department chair, had a plan in place. With the approvals of Dr. Molly Beth Malcolm, executive vice president of Campus Operations & Public Affairs, and our partners at Red Leaf Properties, the work started. Over the next 48 hours, DeFrates and other faculty, students, and former students constructed the ACC monolith.  

“I thought it was a great idea. Two of my lab technicians in Round Rock — Andrew Tory and Angus Stone — had already been talking about the monoliths because anything metal that’s out there excites the welding department,” says DeFrates. “It didn’t take much to get everyone on board.” 

The welding team quickly got to work, using materials on hand and a computer-operated plasma table that had been designed by a former faculty member who was also the father of one of the lab technicians.

Fortunately, when Fontaine Plaza was being developed, DeFrates worked with Red Leaf to embed metal plates at the park for future art installations. 

By 4 a.m. on Friday, the monolith was up on one of those plates at Fontaine Plaza. It’s already generated media attention from Austin to Orlando, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and beyond. 

It will remain on display for an unknown period of time. If you’re in the neighborhood, check it out, snap a photo, and share it with us @ACCDistrict with #Monolith #ACCMonolith #ACC4Everyone.