Art Without Barriers

by Jenuine Poetess

The first move from chaos isn’t order—it’s creativity. In murals, music, theaters, cafes, and poetry. It comes from within people, within families, within community. It rises from the hunger people have for knowledge, ideas, and stories.” ~ Luis J. Rodriguez

There is a need, within all of us, to be known. A longing to be seen, be heard, be understood.   Across all of time, arts and culture have served as a catalyst for this most fundamental aspect of our beings, of our becomings.


(artwork: Jenuine Poetess 2011)

Join me as I explore Waco’s rich community of visionary artists transforming, awakening, and inspiring individuals and their neighborhoods. My mission, as facilitator of Act Locally Waco’s newest blog series on Arts & Culture, is to show you—in such a myriad of vibrant hues—the thrilling work being done here and the extraordinary individuals giving their time and talents to our city!

Last week I sat down with Doreen Ravenscroft, founder and director of Cultural Arts of Waco . I have the utmost respect and admiration for her vision, her creativity, and her unwavering dedication to making arts, cultural, and opportunities for creative expression accessible to individuals of every age, ability, gender, culture, belief, class, and language.

Originally from the United Kingdom, Doreen moved to Waco in 1978 when her late husband Bill, was transferred to the M & M Mars US division. Here she became a part of the Open Door Arts Festival and when that project come to a close, she founded the Cultural Arts of Waco believing in the importance of continuing free, community arts opportunities. This vision gave birth to the Waco Cultural Arts Festival which is now celebrating it’s 11th year and has grown into five flourishing festivals in one.


(photo courtesy of Cultural Arts of Waco)

In her own practice, Doreen most enjoys painting in a large scale such as murals and faux finishing walls in addition to taking in theater, gallery shows, and live music. She is constantly nourishing her creative aspects and brainstorming ways to enrich Waco’s arts and culture offerings.

The Cultural Arts of Waco was granted the only Texas award from the Mid-America Arts Alliance in June 2013. This award funded the creation of the mural on the East Waco branch of the McLennan County Library. For several weeks leading up to the painting, artists gathered with community members to dialogue and draft the vision for this mural. Doreen organized the team of artists as well as the collaboration with neighborhood residents remembering, “It was so fabulous to learn so much more about everyone who lives in East Waco and all those little special anecdotes that only they could give to this project.”

I took a drive by that mural again after I met with Doreen; a visit I like to make pretty regularly. There are so many facets and stories within the mural I relish each time I spend with it.


(photo: Jenuine Poetess 2014)

As I was enjoying this gorgeous canvas, a man also paused to take it in. We chatted for a moment and agreed how lovely it is. I asked if he helped paint it, with a spark of pride and honor he said, “No, I didn’t. But I know people who painted this, they’re my neighbors and friends. I take this street to the bus stop, just so I can walk by here and look at it.”

This is the power of art. In community, for community, by the community. Accessible collaborations for all. I was moved, deeply, by this man’s pride and ownership of this public artwork. It means so much more than a brightly colored building in his neighborhood.

Doreen has an number of dynamic projects on her easel at the moment the grandest of which is the Waco Cultural Arts Festival happening September 26-28th at Indian Spring Park and Waco Convention Center. This free, three-day, community event for all ages offers art activities, concerts, performances, workshops, panel discussions, open mics, poetry slam, and film screenings from across the five festivals which include {254}DanceFest, ScienceFest, Celebration Africa FilmFest, WordFest, and the Main Stage MusicFest . Kicking off the festival weekend is the Annual White Linen pARTy featuring music by Guy Forsyth and the Hot Nut Riveters, a sneak peek at the {254}Dance-Fest, and ScienceFest Chair and visual artist, Erica Wickett. The White Linen pARTy is one of the key fundraising events for the Cultural Arts of Waco.

Toward the end of our conversation, I asked Doreen what her hopes are for Waco. I listened as she dreamed,

I hope for Waco to heal wounds of its past, between its different communities. Arts help express what can’t always be said, it reveals our hurts, and provides space for understanding. I long to see more safe spaces where children and elders and individuals across every generation and ethnicity can gather around creative projects fostering curiosity, without barriers. And through that curiosity, begin to share and to listen to each other’s stories.”

Jenuine Poetess August 2014Jenuine Poetess is an artist, visionary, and community organizer. In 2010, she founded In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW), an international, grass-roots, written and spoken-word arts project with chapters throughout Los Angeles; Waco, TX; and Lebanon. ITWOW empowers womyn of all ages to give sound to our story and volume to our voice. Jenuine also co-hosts Nuestra Voz & Word Gallery, monthly open mic venues for poetry, music, spoken-word, story-telling, and more! You can contact her at: [email protected].

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