Ekphrasis – a symphony of words and images!

By Jenuine Poetess

In 2015 Central Texas Artist Collective (CTAC) brought the community together with an exhibit centered around Birds imagery and themes.  Over 45 artists across diverse mediums entered, some for the first time ever.  This year, CTAC is once again bringing a fresh, dynamic, and collaborative art exhibit to Waco.  Ekphrasis! is a creative adventure pairing visual artists and writers together—selected at random to collaborate—creating art and poetry to be displayed in shop windows along Austin Avenue in Downtown Waco.

ekphrasisNot only are over 50 artists and writers involved in this thrilling project, but over 15 businesses will host artwork and their accompanying poems for the first two weeks of August.  On First Friday, community will have a chance to tour the exhibit and place their votes for Best in Show; Most Inspiring; and Waco/Downtown Spirit awards.  On Saturday August 6th, there will be a reading of all the Ekphrasis poems, live music, a tour of the exhibit, and an awards ceremony.

As far as we know, this kind of endeavor has never been attempted in the history of Waco—bringing so many facets of our city together for the purpose of art, expression, and building community!

I recently had an opportunity to have a virtual dialogue with three of the participants, poet Nicole Metts of Central Texas; fiber artist, Dana Helms of Oklahoma; and poet/spoken-word artist, Audrey Hamlin of Central Texas.  They shared with me a bit about how they came to be involved with this exhibit and their experience being paired with another creator and working as a team to submit their work.

Jenuine Poetess: What inspired you to join this creative adventure?

Nicole Metts: I was inspired by your art/writing combination because I love them both. I have used this technique to give my work much more depth at school.

Dana Helms: I have my great grandmother, Gongie (gone-ghee), to thank for my love of the tactile art in my life. She introduced me to so many artistic abilities when I was young; crochet, painting porcelain, gold leaf, and much much more. She would get frustrated I’m sure but would never let that stop her from teaching me.

Audrey Hamlin: I wanted to expand my horizons as a poet, and Ekphrasis seemed like the perfect way to do it. I find that when I write alone, my writing is inevitably limited to my personal experiences, surroundings, and perceptions.

JP: What are some initial thoughts you had about the process–of a collaborative exhibit, of being randomly partnered with another artist/writer, of creating new work with a new person?

NM: I was the lucky one! My poem came first and Dana Helms (my artist partner) has been showing me her work on a beautiful tapestry as it is coming together. I feel truly blessed to have such an amazing artist turn my poem into a visual piece.

DH: I was a performer at an event in Waco a while back and met some of the nicest artists. They were inviting and interesting. At the time, my husband and I were thinking of moving to Waco. They extended an invitation to me and the whole concept of Ekphrasis was too interesting to pass up.

AH: Honestly, I was initially intimidated by the process of the exhibit. I struggle to consider myself someone worthy of collaborating with, so it was a strange concept to sign up to work with an actual artist when I didn’t consider myself one. However, I decided it would be an act of self-love and courage to do so.

JP: Will you share a bit about your process so far – meeting/connecting with your partner, coming up with an idea, how you conceptualized your respective pieces, etc…?

NM: Besides Dana talking with me about her progress on the tapestry, we have also been coming up with a flyer to define Ekphrasis together. It has been a truly joyful and inspiring experience.

fiber art

Figure 1Detail of Dana Helms Ekphrasis fiber art

DH: My process so far has been totally amazing! I agreed to be part of the show and was paired with Nicole Metts. Next I received her poem and was immediately inundated with ideas in both the Fiber and animation world. Nicole shared some of her likes (i.e. Colors, and steampunk) and I went from there with emailing a sketch then an in progress image. She has been very encouraging and supportive. I am hoping to collaborate more with her on an animation film short to submit to film festivals and multi-media shows in museums.

AH: Christy Town and I met at Tea2Go (as all Waco artists do) a couple weeks ago. We started by discussing our respective work. Christy told me that she was an abstract artist, which excited me because I have always been moved more by abstract art. After seeing some examples of her art and talking about my poetry, we started talking about reoccurring images in my poetry (phoenixes, stained glass windows). From there, we decided that we would continue with the themes of some of my past poetry about interpersonal violence and play with the images of phoenixes and stained glass as images of renewal. Since then, we have been playing with various ideas in both art and poetry. I have developed a near-final draft of the poem that steals some lines and concepts from old poetry, while also exploring some new ideas from Christy’s inspiration. I am currently in the process of playing with some formatting. As I am accustomed to sharing my poetry typically through spoken word, I am excited to find a way to present this piece visually rather than orally.

JP: How has this project challenged you—pushed you beyond the bounds of your routine creative process?

NM: The flyer has been a challenge. It was difficult to come up with a truly unique perspective; but I love a challenge and am thankful for the experience.

DH: I am usually a face to face kind of person. I like to get a sense of who the writer is and where they come from. So this has completely thrown me outside of my comfort zone. Which is a very good thing for anyone to do frequently! I feel very mentally expanded right now. It’s very riveting!!!

AH: This project has challenged me by allowing me for the first time to acknowledge myself in a significant way as a writer and poet. It has also challenged me in the way that collaboration always does: it is an adventure to see something as dear to me as my writing through the eyes of another artist who I respect.

JP: How has/is this project shaped/shaping you as an artist/writer?

NM: This project has helped me grow and build skills as a writer and has also introduced me to some amazing inspiring people.

JP: What value does this kind of project /exhibit have for artists & for our city? 

NM: Waco and the arts community should be truly proud of this project. This partnership between artist and writer will bring its audience a truly unique and memorable experience. 

DH: Putting writers and visual artists together will allow for a more inclusive community. To open a dialogue between word smiths and visuals is to grow a collaborative that will do the unimaginable. I would have never thought of this piece or the animation without reading Nicole’s work

AH: I think this exhibit will open the eyes of locals and visitors to the amazing community of artists in the Waco area. Waco is, like any city, often defined by a handful of people and events that don’t capture the entirety of its diversity. I think it is so easy for all of us to see Waco and think of Baylor or Fixer Upper, both of which just scratch the very surface of what Waco is. Waco is a sum of all of its parts, and that includes the artistic expression that it inspires.

JP: What would you like Waco to know about this exhibit and /or arts & community in general? 

NM: This type of project truly brings people together with a common bond to bring culture to Waco and is an ingenuous event that should not be missed.

AH: I would like Waco to recognize the beauty that comes from a group of people coming together to bring their respective talents together to make art. In a world full of so much hate and violence, I think collaborations like this, artistic or not, are exactly what community is about. I hope that this exhibit inspires the people of Waco to collaborate with one another. Something truly magical happens when diverse groups of people get together and share their stories, their talents, and their unique perspectives. This exhibit is just one manifestation of that.

JP: Would you do something like this again?

NM: I would absolutely do something like this again and I have enjoyed every moment of it! I also hope Dana Helm and I will be doing other projects together in the future.

DH: I would definitely love to do something like this again!! I’m IN!!!  I am bringing some of my husband’s colleagues with me to the show. They can’t stop talking about it with him at work. It’s a great idea!!

AH: Absolutely!

Get Involved:

  • First Friday :: August 5, 2016 :: Stroll along Austin Avenue and cast your votes for :




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, CA; Waco, TX; and Lebanon.  Jenuine is the founder of Waco Poets Society and co-founder of the Central Texas Artist Collective.    She writes, organizes, and creates rooted in the fierce conviction that holding intentional space, access, and opportunity for all people to foster their creative health is a matter of justice and is a vital asset to the sustainable thriving of communities.  She currently lives and poems in Central Texas where she enjoys finding new ways to disrupt the homeostasis of her city.  You can contact her at: j[email protected].

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.







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