Art Forum of Waco : where the heART creates change
by Jenuine Poetess
This month I had the pleasure of sitting down with Arturo Huron and Jesus Rivera the co-owner/directors of the Art Forum of Waco located in the heart of the Sanger Heights Neighborhood at 19th and Morrow.
A gallery, artist studios, and event venue, this beautiful space serves as a multi-purpose community centro for creative collaborations. Local ceramics artist, Doreen Plotts, of Mammoth Creek Pottery has an ongoing gallery/shop space within the Art Forum and Shawn Knuckles is the featured artist exhibiting now through October 17th. Art Forum of Waco has exhibited works from local artists, including a Waco ISD Student Exhibition, and from artists across North, Central, and South America.
During our conversation Jesus Rivera, resident artist, gallery curator, and maestro of the Art Forum’s Saturday Art Classes shared about the importance of a community holding space for artists of all media to gather to create, exhibit, and inspire art works. He said that when he was in college he saw the need for artists in the community to have studios, for there to be a gallery for showing work, and for there to be space for performances of music, poetry, dance, theater, and story-telling. As the creative visionary, he teamed up with Arturo who manages the administrative components of the venue and the two have committed to maintaining the Art Forum of Waco. Arturo Huron, who is a teacher and organizer with the American Federation of Teachers, spoke with passion, “it is vital to have thriving arts programs here in Waco. This city is just waiting to come alive!”
Every two years the Art Forum of Waco hosts a multi-media Dia De Los Muertos extravaganza event showcasing artwork depicting this season of remembrance of those loved ones lost, and creating a community altar to give honor to deceased ancestors. With more financial support from the city and private donors, Rivera and Huron both agreed, that they could make this important event an annual tradition in addition to growing countless other programs they envision for the space.
“This neighborhood, Sanger Heights, has been very good to us. The people who live across the street and around the block, they come, they volunteer, they support our events and programs. Those with already thin-stretched budgets are donating because they know how much arts y cultura matter to the health of a community.”
As a teacher, Arturo sees the correlation between the access his students have to creative outlets and their academic performance in areas of math, science, English, and social studies, “the less we engage in art, the less educated are we. Art allows us to celebrate our uniqueness and diversity as well as understand and honor our commonalities.” Art also provides opportunity for us to know ourselves, the greatest education after which we can ever endeavor.
Among the diverse offerings of the Art Forum is a monthly open mic, “Nuestra Voz”—Our Voice, co-hosted by Sanger Heights community leader Fernando Arroyo and your columnist truly, me! Every second Saturday evening around 6:45pm people gather–elders and youngers, poets and musicians, people across all cultures, genders, beliefs, abilities, practices, and experiences–to share poems, songs, stories, reflections—bits of ourselves, with each other. We build community together. We co-create art works and nourish inspiration.
When I asked, Why Waco? Why invest here? both gentlemen smiled wide, “Waco is a romantic city with its gorgeous river, its diversity, and beautiful artists,” Rivera said,
“Waco is in need of more spaces for artists, more public art, more beauty where people can pause and enjoy a moment of looking at something created for aesthetic pleasure. We have a saying, in Spanish, ‘la cultura empieza por la limpieza,’ ‘culture begins with cleanliness.’ Where there is public art, people respect it, they honor it. They will be motivated to keep the area clean, it cultivates a sense of pride in the neighborhood, in the city.”
Public art gives everyone a chance to be a part of something outside of ourselves and by taking part we cultivate agency and identity organically. We are creating the culture of Waco in each painting, story, song, dance, play, poem, and artistic expression we share.
To learn more about Saturday Art Classes, Nuestra Voz Open Mic, renting a studio space, attending an exhibit’s opening reception, please click here to visit The Art Forum of Waco’s Facebook page. To sign-up for Saturday Art Classes or find out more information, please call: (254) 652-5119 or email: [email protected].
The majority of Art Forum programming is free and open to all ages; donations are always welcome to support the efforts of Jesus Rivera and Arturo Huron and this rich centro of arts y cultura en Waco!
Jenuine 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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