Waco may be pursuing greatness in just the right way

By Ferrell Foster

Waco may be on the verge of greatness. This thought came to me this morning as I reflected on two true things — our town seems to be facing the reality of its high poverty rate, and we also seem to be taking the arts seriously.

It may seem odd to tie these two things together, so let me try.

Art gives expression to all that makes a community great.

No city can be great when such a high percentage of its population lives in poverty. There is all kinds of data to prove this point, but you can also drive into certain parts of town and convince the other side of your brain of this truth.

The poor will always be with us, as someone famous once said, but that did not prevent him from caring deeply and working on behalf of the poor. That guy’s name was Jesus, and people are still talking about him, even worshipping him, 2,000 years later.

So, yes, there will always be people who live in poverty, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t work our tails off helping as many as we can. We help them in the short term by dealing with basic needs (food and shelter), but the most important help comes in the form of education and job training — things related to earning a liveable wage. A minimum wage job cannot support anyone adequately unless they are living with someone else.

And, by the way, our very best schools should be in our very poorest neighborhoods. That’s where it is most needed. But, in Texas, we have the opposite. The best schools are usually in wealthier neighborhoods. Education takes money, even though some don’t like to admit it. Those same people often pay more for housing or private schools for that very reason — it takes money to educate children while parents are working elsewhere.

The other side of this coin is promotion of the arts. This is not often understood as intuitively as the other. We are so enmeshed in a capitalist society that we can easily think business and money-making are the most important parts of building a community. Business and money-making are essential, but addressing poverty and promoting the arts is equally important.

Why the arts? This sector is much like the spiritual sector (of which we already have great strength). Both promote a connection to truth and concerns beyond oneself, and when we connect to deeper Realities we generally become more attuned to the people around us, or we should. Sometimes American religion can be very self-centered (as in “my” salvation) and undermine broader concern, but Christianity and other religions lift love of neighbor to equal footing with love of self. Self-esteem is good (you are created in the image of God), but neighbor-esteem is just as important (they are created in that same image).

More than 100 years ago, Evelyn Underhill understood the connection between spirituality and art. Artists, she said, are “aware of a more vivid and more beautiful world” than other people. They are “always driven by their love and enthusiasm” to express before others “those deeper significances of form, sound, rhythm, which they have been able to apprehend.”

Artists can do this because “they taste deeper and deeper truths, make ever closer unions with the Real. For them, the duty of creation is tightly bound up with the gift of love,” Underhill wrote.

This is why we need artists, just as surely as we need preachers. They help us to connect with the broader realities that many of us identify as God, while others identify it in other ways. This makes, or should make us, better neighbors. And better neighbors make better towns.

And, by the way, the creativity of the artistic mindset can be financially profitable, as well. For proof of this look no further than our very own Joanna Gaines. Joanna’s creativity with Chip’s business sense as built something important that is benefiting many.

Almost 30 years ago, the band Jars of Clay recorded a song titled “The Art in Me,” which included these lyrics:

“Sculpting every move 

You compose a symphony 

And you plead to everyone 

See the art in me 

See the art in me 

See the art in me.”

(Songwriters: Charlie Lowell / Dan Haseltine / Matthew Ryan Bronleewe / Stephen Daniel Mason)

May we see the art in each other and work to help each other, both in our struggles and in our art.

Ferrell Foster is senior specialist for care & communication with Prosper Waco. He is also on the Board of Directors of Act Locally Waco and a regular contributor to the blog.

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 the ALW team — [email protected].

Chalk art obstacle courses come to life in Waco parks

Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, Creative Waco, and City of Waco Parks and Recreation collaborated to create the Sidewalk Chart Art Obstacle Course Challenge. The Challenge was a community-wide project that tasked families to get outside and get creative by drawing their best sidewalk chalk obstacle course.

The Health District received multiple submissions from the community, all containing different, creative ways to get through the obstacle course such as: hopping like a bunny rabbit, spinning, doing your best touchdown dance, and jumping through lily pads like a frog.

 “The goal for the challenge was to provide families with a fun way to get outside and get active, while also providing a COVID-safe activity for all to enjoy,” said Emily Green, public health education specialist for the Public Health District. 

Families were asked to submit photos March 23-April 18, and winners were chosen May 3. A panel of judges representing local organizations scored the entries on creativity, obstacles within the course, and the ability for all community members to enjoy.

The winners are the Vaughn and Peebles families, the Sharma family, and the Striezel family.

The obstacle courses are now painted on sidewalks near the playground stations at Bledsoe-Miller Park (300 N. M.L.K. Jr. Blvd.), South Waco Park (2815 Speight Ave.), and Dewey Park (925 N. 9th St.). Tashita Bibles, a talented local artist, stayed true to the spirit of the kids’ original artwork, while bringing some magic of her own.

“How cool that some of the children who participated get to see their artwork come to life in City of Waco parks. It’s a reminder that everyone’s ideas can make a positive difference in our community” said Fiona Bond, executive director of Creative Waco.

Funding made possible through the Texas Healthy Communities, Texas Department of State Health Services grant.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Stars Over Texas Jamboree presenting country legends edition

By Terry Roller

Following a successful first Golden Oldies Edition at the Waco Hippodrome in June, the Stars Over Texas Jamboree will present its first Legends of Country Edition at the historic downtown theatre, 724 Austin Ave. on Tuesday, July 8. Pre-show begins at 6:45 p.m., and showtime is 7 p.m.

Special guests include Danny Ragland as Willie Nelson, Bridgett Huffhines as Patsy Cline, and Jamboree partner Johnnie Bradshaw as Jim Reeves, along with the Jamboree partners, band, and cast. 

Tickets are assigned seating. Seats are $20, $16, $14, and $12 (balcony) plus sales tax and a small processing fee. Tickets are available on the Hippodrome website and at the door on the night of the show, though by that time the remaining seats may most likely be balcony seats. Limited $16 (plus tax and processing) advance tickets will also be available at Lone Star Music, 929 Lake Air Dr. Ample parking is available within a block of the Hippodrome including on and off-street parking.

The Hippodrome location provides visitors the opportunity purchase a selection of adult beverages, water, and soft drinks while watching the show. 

Shows will follow all current CDC and government mandates and Hippodrome policies regarding masking and social distancing at the time of the show. Check the Hippodrome website and Facebook page and the Stars Over Texas Jamboree Facebook page for changes or updates. Should there be another shutdown, this show will be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.

Terry Roller is a retired graphic design professor from Baylor, having taught there for 33 years in addition to 6 years at Eastern Illinois University and 4 years as a teaching assistant at the University of Tennessee where he holds a BFA and MFA in design. He is also a partner in the Stars Over Texas Jamboree. He acts as vocalist, designer, roadie, and occasional emcee and comic.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Popular long-running music show relaunches in new home

By Terry Roller

Beginning with a June 10 Golden Oldies Edition, The Stars Over Texas Jamboree will join forces with the historic Waco Hippodrome to begin an exciting reincarnation of Waco’s only locally produced music variety stage show. In addition to a new venue, the Jamboree will be moving to a new night, the second Thursday of each month instead of the first. The curtain will open at the Hippodrome at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 10, with a pre-show at 6:45 p.m.

The Hippodrome location will allow fans to enjoy a selection of adult beverages, soft drinks, popcorn, and snacks while enjoying the show. Once the Hippodrome-affiliated restaurants are back in operation, audiences will be able to order food during the show. Patrons will also have the convenience of purchasing tickets online from the Hippodrome website. Ticketing will be for assigned seating with varying prices depending on location in the theatre.

The Jamboree was launched in September 2010 by then partners Johnnie Bradshaw, Jim Guest, Terry Roller, and Andy Schlesser (Andy Thomas) who later withdrew. Local music favorite Ralph Sparks, the Jamboree keyboard player, became the fourth partner. Jim, Lead guitarist, toured with Reba McEntire and lived for a time in Branson, playing in various shows in that popular music-centric tourist destination. Johnnie is a long-time fixture in the Waco music scene, having started numerous bands over the years going back as far as his father’s band, the Bradshaw Gang and the Starlites with Phil Duckett. He also served as a DJ on local radio. Terry, a graphic design professor at Baylor, came on board as a vocalist and promotional designer. Johnnie and Terry share emcee duties, as well. 

Monthly shows rotate between oldies, country, and gospel, providing an entertainment event similar to those in Branson. The show has been very popular, with many loyal audience members having missed very few of the 115 shows in those nine-plus years. That is a long run in Waco. In that time, the Jamboree has presented the best in Central Texas music talent including our band, cast, and over 200 different guest performers. 

As the partners began thinking about reopening, they learned that the relationship with The Lee Lockwood facility would not continue. Searching for a new home, they found the management of the Waco Hippodrome eager to come aboard. The Jamboree appreciates the nine years of support from Lee Lockwood at great cost to them. The partnership looks forward to being at the Hippodrome and the new possibilities it brings while realizing there will be challenges.

We are still in the planning stages. Watch for further details as the concert date nears. Check our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheStarsOverTexasJamboree, or the Hippodrome website: https://wacohippodrometheatre.com/ or their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/wacohippodrome/ for updates. Email  [email protected] or [email protected] for more information or phone 254-755-7257.

Shows will follow all CDC and government mandates and Hippodrome policies regarding masking and social distancing at the time of the show. Should there be another shutdown, this show will be rescheduled at the earliest possible date.

Terry Roller is a retired graphic design professor from Baylor, having taught there for 33 years in addition to 6 years at Eastern Illinois University and 4 years as a teaching assistant at the University of Tennessee where he holds a BFA and MFA in design. He is also a partner in the Stars Over Texas Jamboree. He began singing at the age of 50 after having taken a continuing education group vocal class at Baylor with his then 11-year-old daughter. Soon after, he began singing around central Texas and as a regular with the Texas All Star Review at Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth. With three partners he met through the Music Association of Central Texas, he helped found The Stars Over Texas Jamboree that kicked off its very first show September 2010. He acts as vocalist, designer, roadie, and occasional emcee and comic.

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Creative Waco founder talks art projects, involvement in community

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Clay Thompson 

After living in several different countries, Creative Waco founder Fiona Bond ended up in Waco, a move that might have surprised her friends overseas, but as she put it, both she and her family fell in love with the town and its potential. 

Fiona Bond of Creative Waco

“We followed our curiosity, and the rest is history,” Bond said. “When I saw Waco, I saw the green shoots of opportunity and creativity here.” 

What Bond said she loves most about Waco, aside from its cultural awakening, is the people. 

“Every place is made by its people,” she said. 

Bond saw Waco as a place that had not yet woken up to its full potential. She described it as being like a slightly gawky teenager who doesn’t yet recognize the extent of their true beauty and talent. 

“The thing I find most compelling is that it has truly world-class talent that has not yet been discovered by the wider World,” Bond said. “And we get to be the generation that cultivates Waco’s cultural identity for years to come.”

Bond recently earned a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Baylor University, which, along with running Creative Waco full time and juggling family life with husband Bruce Longenecker (a religion professor at Baylor) and two active teen sons, did not leave spare time for much else. With the pandemic restricting arts programming and no more MBA study, she now has a little more time to discover Waco’s other assets.  

“I go kayaking on the lake or rivers every opportunity I get,” Bond said. She also loves hiking Waco’s abundance of trails and cycling between downtown meetings. She and Bruce are active members of DaySpring Baptist Church, and she admires the work of her fellow nonprofit leaders. 

“I like to work with the nonprofits in the community. That happens mostly through Creative Waco. We love to get involved with things where we are not necessarily the lead organization, and we’re coming alongside to support and add value to amazing work that other people are doing.” 

Bond considers herself lucky to be involved in the “awakening” of Waco, as she describes it. By working at Creative Waco, she has led multiple cultural and artistic projects that are shaping the city. 

One of the early transformative projects was Waco 52, which showcased Waco as a newly designated State of Texas Cultural District. Fifty-two visual artists from Waco were selected by two international judges and had their work exhibited in the rotunda of the state capitol in 2017. 

The exhibition was accompanied by a publication with preface by former President George W. Bush, and Chip and Joanna Gaines. Bond laughingly points out that this may be “the only publication in which they have appeared together – but they are all local artists, after all.” 

The exhibition was turned into a deck of playing cards which is still sold to support arts programs in Waco. A second exhibition of the work back in Waco became the catalyst for the gallery that became Cultivate 7Twelve on Austin Avenue where Creative Waco’s office is now based.

“That project just gave and gave,” Bond said. “Everybody involved benefitted hugely, and so did our community. For the first time, a large cohort of outstanding artists were proud to link their professional reputation to Waco.” 

Bond founded Creative Waco, a nonprofit that serves as the “Local Arts Agency” (arts council or arts commission) and whose mission is “to grow and support a thriving cultural and creative community in Waco and McLennan County.” Bond said its goal is to bring together the elements necessary to grow a cultural hub where artists and creative professionals can be successful. 

Bond originally discovered Waco because her husband was offered a chair at Baylor. “It was definitely not on our top 10 list of places we thought we might want to live, but when we visited for the first time, we fell in love with Waco and that relationship has deepened over time.”

When her family moved here, she was surprised there was not an organization like Creative Waco that existed to develop strategy and resources for the arts. She eventually found a coalition of leaders who shared her vision that growth for the arts would mean growth and benefit for everyone.

“Everyone naturally wants to have their piece of the pie,” she said. “Growing the arts is not about cutting that pie into smaller pieces to make it go further. It’s about sowing the seeds for a bigger harvest – so you can cook a bigger pie – and then make more of them.”

Clay Thompson is a freshman journalism major at Baylor. 

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

MCC Hearts in the Arts Gala features mystery & fashion

By Kim Patterson

When I was a kid, my favorite board game was Clue. Something about being transported inside an imaginary mansion to solve a murder mystery awakened my inner detective, and I loved assuming a serious poker face as I deduced “whodunit.” 

If you, too, enjoy the fun of solving a mystery, join us for “Clue: The Musical” Hearts in the Arts Gala sponsored by McLennan Community College.  This year, due to recent weather disruptions, the event has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4, at the MCC Ball Performing Arts Center. 

Now in its 19th year, the Hearts in the Arts Gala has become a community favorite with its blend of dining and a musical performed by McLennan Theatre students.  This year’s production provides loads of inspiration for patrons who enjoy dressing to the theme of the show, and Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet are already on the guest list. 

Kermit Oliver
(photo courtesy of Waco Tribune-Herald)

Adding to the fun, and also extended one week, are ticket sales for a chance to win one of two Hermès scarves designed and autographed by internationally renowned Waco artist Kermit Oliver. Oliver is the only American artist ever commissioned for the exclusive Hermès Paris fashion house. Generous supporters of McLennan Arts donated the scarves and acquired the autographs on Oliver’s highly sought-after Kachinas and Pawnee designs. An Hermès scarf bearing Oliver’s unique artwork and signature is exceptionally rare and virtually priceless.

Hermès Kachinas Scarf

Tickets for the Scarf in the Arts raffle are $20 each or six for $100 and are available online until 11:59 p.m., March 3 at www.mclennan.edu/foundation/scarfinthearts. Tickets may be purchased in person at the March 4 Gala until intermission when the winning tickets will be drawn. Winner need not be present to win.

“Clue: The Musical” opened off Broadway in 1997 to mixed reviews, but the clever show has experienced a renaissance in community theatre in years since. The musical offers an interactive feature in which audience members help determine which of the show’s colorful characters killed Mr. Boddy, what weapon they used and in which room of Boddy Mansion the murder took place. Based on the cards drawn, there are 216 possible endings to the show — a feature that will challenge the acting chops of the cast. The McLennan production will be directed by theatre faculty choreographer Joe Taylor.

In-person tickets for the Gala are sold out, but virtual guests may view a live stream of the production at a secure link. Tickets are $100 each and include a generous voucher for dining at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante in lieu of the usual cocktail dinner.

Hearts in the Arts is an affinity group of the MCC Foundation that supports the arts at McLennan, and event and raffle proceeds benefit scholarships for area students. Gala reservations are due by Thursday, Feb. 25. To make reservations, or to inquire about the Scarf in the Arts raffle, contact the McLennan Community College Foundation at 254-299-8604 or [email protected].

Kim Patterson is executive director of McLennan Community College Foundation and the Office of Institutional Advancement. Patterson is a graduate of Baylor University with degrees in journalism and marketing. In 2017, she earned a master’s degree in management and leadership from Tarleton State University. She and her husband Frank have two grown children and enjoy camping, fishing, and hiking. 

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

‘Tree of Life’ mural marks East Waco past & future

By Ferrell Foster

Waco celebrated its Black heritage & future, the arts, and the return of banking to East Waco in a Monday evening gathering. The new Tree of Life mural extends along one wall of TFNB’s new East Waco bank. TFNB “Your Bank for Life” is at 715 Elm Ave. The mural reflects the commitment of TFNB, Creative Waco, Waco ISD student artists, and the broader Black community of East Waco.

Vincent Thomas and Cade Kegerreis were lead designers for the mural project, while Kristen Thompson and Tashita Bibles served as artist mentors. A film also captured the work, it Andreas Zaloumis served as film mentor.

An information card at the celebration said:

“The Tree of Life mural represents the unity that is rooted in community, wisdom, and understanding. Individuals grow from their ancestors, passing along knowledge of how they came to be. The many stories are often intertwined when focusing on a specific place, such as historically rich East Waco. This mural is designed to highlight the flourishing community rooted in Elm Street.

“Generations of families in East Waco have grown and thrived through hardships and represent a vibrant culture that has often been overlooked and under appreciated. Co-designers Vincent Thomas and Cade Kegerreis considered this project an opportunity to reflect these rich stories and respect the history of this neighborhood while looking to its future and aspirations.”

Prosper Waco has posted short videos of some of the comments made during the celebration — Andrea Barefield, Linda Lewis, and Fiona Bond.

The mural served as completion of ARTPrenticeship 2020, with the following apprentices participating in the project:

Jonathan Campos

Vanesa Carvajal

Lina Denson

Rafael Flores

Fate King

Zander Lim

Angelina Monroy

Jasmin Nunez

Lillian Olvera

Larissa Rodriguez

Niala Speedwell

Maria Duarte Tavera

Tahlia Tran

Ja’Nasia Whitfield

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

Mural Monday: Julie Milstead

Julie Milstead with her “Mural for The Cove”

By Debbie Wright

Julie Milstead is a local artist and educator. She has partnered with Creative Waco to bring works of art alive all across the city. Her day job is with kids at Midway Middle School, and she takes her role as an educator very seriously. 

She translated this love in her life into a recent Mural for The Cove, which is a teen nurturing center designed to provide a safe space for students experiencing homelessness to access the resources they need to thrive. It is a partnership with Creative Waco and their “artprenticeship.” The mural shows a beautiful mosaic-style yellow bird trailed by puzzle pieces. 

Harold Brown, the Cove’s community relations coordinator, said the puzzle pieces represent all the people that help the Cove students and the bird itself represents the Cove students and their ability to overcome and soar above anything that comes their way. Milstead said this was an amazing experience where she was able to work with some beautiful souls.

Not only has she worked on The Cove mural, she also worked on some fun Baylor-inspired murals on windows downtown. Since Baylor Homecoming was canceled in 2020, artists took to the walls of Waco to celebrate and depict scenes of Baylor throughout our town. If you get the chance to swing by the Hippodrome and Raleigh on 8th Street and Austin Avenue you can find her two bear pieces. One is reminiscent of the Baylor Sailor bear in a colorful pop art tile-grid style, and the other is a stylized balloon bear. 

Julie Milstead with “COVID Kisses”

I actually ran into Julie at one of my favorite coffee locations, Pinewood Coffee Bar, off Austin Ave., while she was in the process of painting some beautiful bears wearing masks with the fabulous Fiona Bond. This piece was a part of the #WacoSafe mural project, and she calls this painting “COVID Kisses.” In 2020, she also participated in the #WeChalkWaco campaign in partnership with MC Art Supplies.

Milstead has worked all over Waco, and you might have even seen some of her works in the past at Dichotomy and not even known it. 

Though she is a talented artist who has worked with many mediums — including painting on sidewalks, walls, glass, shoes, tables, drum rims, and even gaming controllers — she works a lot with acrylic paint to bring her abstract designs to life on canvas. Her abstract works are visually stunning with bright colors and texture. 

One of my personal favorite collections is her Waco Cityscapes collection, and you can find one featured at The Brazos Theatre. To find more of her art and follow her on her journey on Instagram @julie_milstead_artists. There you can see her many loves and the things she is inspired by, like her travels, her family, and even Jujitsu.

Debbie Wright runs the local Know Waco Podcast, which features upcoming events and activities happening in and around the Waco area. She is a recent Texas Tech graduate, with a major in communications and minor in public relations. She has lived in the Waco area for 10 years and loves to work with local creatives and artists. 

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 Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Mural Monday: Tyler Kay

By Debbie Wright

Tyler Kay is Texan, raised right outside of Houston on her family property in Katy. She is the type of person who sees a freshly painted white wall and immediately thinks ‘I really want to paint that’. That is exactly what happened back in 2017 when she was visiting Waco with her family. She walked right in the building with her dog by her side and spoke with the owners of Savage Finds, Joey & Tammy.  They agreed to let her do it!  Joey, actually thought of the phrase, “My greatest find…” so the mural is a mix of her style of florals and his clever wit. Now the beautiful mural has become one of the “greatest finds” in downtown Waco.

Coincidentally, the interview for this article took place on the 3-year anniversary of the mural, which was completed on October 15, 2017. She said this mural really “got the ball rolling” for her and gave her more opportunities for murals. Now, painting murals is both her hobby and day Job, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Murals are my everything, I only do murals and art now, so it is pretty much my life,” she said.  As evidence to back up her statement, her were smudged with bright colored paint here and there and even her cell phone had colorful droplets scattered across it.

Her inspiration for becoming an artist came from a big turning point in her life. Her boyfriend died in a car accident and this caused her to reevaluate her life. “I am wanting to leave something behind for me to be remembered by and make a difference,” she said. She calls this “Mortality Motivation” and it has helped her turn dark moments in her life into light. She sometimes creates art works titled with important or pivotal dates from her life.  The numerical values in her “Glitch & Glam” painting series are based on the dates of occurrences in her life that she acknowledges as instances of redirection towards her bigger purpose. Glitch 12.20 represents December 20th, the date of her boyfriend’s accident.

This surprisingly has become one of her most successful and favorite pieces. She has showed her works across the country and her paintings have been featured in renowned art exhibitions, music festivals, and publications. While on exhibition at Art Basel Miami, that piece sold to a private collector in only two days. “Glitch & Glam” is one of her favorite series and she said she hopes to expand and continue it in the future.

Tyler specializes in florals and enjoys incorporating meaningful quotes into her compositions. Many of her works focus on positivity and growth. “I am loving how much my works can be interpreted and people can bring so many different meanings to it (the murals),” she said. She loves seeing people interact with her pieces and finds herself smiling and happy crying over all the pictures people share with her murals of engagement pictures, weddings, and even maternity pictures. “Public art is what I love because people can interpret it in so many ways,” she said lovingly.

After her schooling at the University of Houston, where she obtained a Bachelors of Art and a Masters in Arts Leadership. She got a job at Bisong Art Gallery, also in Houston. She worked her way up from mopping floors to being a gallery director. That position opened doors and gave her many new experiences. One of her earliest murals was for a dance studio, from there it was just one after the other until now she does it for a living.

Though she loves what she does, she also loves to travel and see the world. “I would just pack up and go to Europe for a month… That may seem like a long time but since I never really have time off and work every Saturday and Sunday it works as a great break,” she said while talking about her love of travel and culture.

If you are interested in finding out more about Tyler Kay or are interested in purchasing some of her art, follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/tylerkay/ or her other social medias and buy her prints at https://tyler-kay.com/ .

Debbie Wright runs the local Know Waco Podcast, which features upcoming events and activities happening in and around the Waco area. She is a recent Texas Tech graduate, with a major in communications and minor in public relations. She has lived in the Waco area for ten years and loves to work with local creatives and artists. 

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.

Epiphanies: New Works Festival is a Great Example of the Mission of Wild Imaginings Performing Arts Group

By Trent Sutton

The Epiphanies New Works Festival arose in much the same way that many of the projects at Wild Imaginings do. It started with a discovered desire in the Waco community, a conversation over coffee, and two people dreaming together. I can still remember the Friday morning that I sat in Fabled across the table from Rosalind Jackson-Roe, the Festival’s co-founder. It started as, “Well, what if we…” and by the end of an hour, had turned into “Ok, so here’s what we have to do.”

Since that conversation, a truly remarkable journey has been embarked upon. A process has been created unlike any that I have seen, and the feedback from those involved has been incredible.

We had the privilege of granting 8 of playwrights the opportunity to hear their work read aloud at a table reading, after which they were able to interact with the actors and receive invaluable feedback. They were then given time to revise their work and resubmit it, after which we chose 4 of those 8 to be performed at the festival. Far from solely a performative opportunity, we have designed Epiphanies to be a form of professional development that is often difficult to come by.

Watching these plays come to life before my eyes, seeing playwrights see their dreams dance before their very eyes, and witnessing the progress of ideas as they chase the proverbial sunset—these are the reasons that I do what I do. Epiphanies has encompassed the heart of Wild Imaginings in ways that I could never have foreseen, and that it was formed in the very type of collaborative ‘bring dreams to life’ kind of way that our very organization was built upon makes it that much sweeter.

From the beginning, our mission at Wild Imaginings has been to be a community where creativity reigns. And our mission is shaped accordingly, that we may remain fully committed to 5 key things, that we lovingly refer to as the rules of the reign:

  • Creating an affirming community in which local artists are empowered to pursue the development of new and relevant work.
  • Valuing the identity and dignity of all persons by creating a safe space for difficult conversations through the art of storytelling. 
  • Cultivating a willingness to explore, experiment, and otherwise push the boundaries of what performing arts can be and the impact they can have in the community. 
  • Striving to elevate the role of performing arts in Waco by maintaining their standards of originality, relevance, and artistic excellence. 
  • Preserving the joy of performance by refusing to let go of childish dreams, fantastic fantasies, and wild imaginings.

Epiphanies, simply put, checks each of these boxes in a remarkable way. You can be certain that it is going to be a part of the lifeblood of Wild Imaginings, an event to which we may look forward to seeing year after year. Because for Wild Imaginings, and certainly for Epiphanies, this is only the beginning.

And who knows what other coffeeshop dreams will happen next?

Trent Sutton is the Founder and Artistic Director of Wild Imaginings, a newly formed performing arts nonprofit here in Waco, TX. He has recently graduated from Truett Seminary with his Master of Divinity, and has already made Waco his home. He is passionate about the arts and believes them to be the best way in which he can contribute to the city which he has grown to love so much. He believes Wild Imaginings is uniquely positioned to truly bring a different flavor of art to Waco, and he is excited for what this new adventure will bring. His desire is that this community be limited only by the scope of their imaginations. His favorite thing is sharing dreams and ideas and working together to bring them to life. So don’t hesitate to reach out!