By Kat Worrall
In case the chalked circle emblems haven’t taken over everyone’s daily walk to class, the third annual Art on Elm Avenue is taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The event, a free pop-up art exhibition in East Waco, is presented by NeighborWorks, a non profit that provides a “one-stop shop” for lower- to middle-income families looking for housing opportunities.
Art on Elm Avenue is expanding to three blocks around Elm Avenue and Dallas Street this year. NeighborWorks is expecting an increase in attendance compared to last year’s 3,000 visitors.
“Local artists, local children artists, local bands, local food vendors, local craft vendors — everything is local,” said Baylor alumna Honey Jenkins, NeighborWorks Waco’s director of marketing, communication and information technology. “We want it to stay as local as possible and really show the pride and joy that Waco has to offer, especially East Waco.”
The event was created when a representative from NeighborWorks America visited Waco, evaluated East Waco’s attributes and labeled what exactly Waco was missing.
What he said was missing was an arts district, Jenkins said, and that is where the idea for Art on Elm Avenue was born.
“Not everyone comes over to East Waco,” Jenkins said. “There is kind of a stigma against it and that is something we are really fighting because there is nothing wrong with East Waco. It’s a great place to be.”
Dana Feliciano, owner of The Village Herbalist, an herb shop and holistic center located off Elm Avenue on Tyler Street, has joined with Jenkins and other East Waco business owners to promote the area.
The Village Herbalist offers plant-based herbal medicine and products, as well as holistic massage therapy, infrared saunas, classes on herbal medicine and local artisan goods. She first marketed her business with a small booth at last year’s Art on Elm Avenue event.
“It was the first event that I had advertised my business at and I got to know the community down here,” Feliciano said.
Her grandfather once owned a small business in the East Waco community, so she grew up in the area.
“All of the people that have invested down here are amazing people,” she said. “They have an amazing vision of merging East Waco into downtown Waco. I believe over the next five years this entire area will be transformed and will become a part of downtown.”
Feliciano said the demographics of the area, which range over all ages, will continue to grow with the art culture and with the new McLane Stadium.
“We are small businesses that have a vision for downtown East Waco, and we hope that people will come out and support all of the events down here and all of the businesses down here,” Feliciano said. “It supports people like us that are trying to support the growth of East Waco.”
Jenkins hopes for more businesses like The Village Herbalist in the area.
“The point of Elm is for people to come over,” Jenkins said. “There is a lot of potential over here and you could do something over here too. Feliciano attended AOE last year and was like, ‘I love Elm. I love East Waco. I can do something here.’”
As for the art showcase, around 20 local adult artists and 30 high school student artists will present their artwork in two vacant industrial buildings, Jenkins said.
The artwork will vary from paintings, photography, sculptures and more, and some of the artists will be selling their work.
There will be a children’s area at the event with jewelry crafts, bounce houses, snacks and wooden and paper crafts.
“We carve wooden fish out of fence posts and the kids can paint them and bring them home,” Jenkins said.
The Village Herbalist will be one of the merchant vendors featured at Art on Elm Avenue.
There will also be various artwork, jewelry, candles, quilts and craft vendors. Several food trucks will also be present and local musicians will perform throughout the day.
Art on Elm Avenue will be selling a limited quantity of event T-shirts for $10.
Jenkins, who spent time in Austin after she graduated from Baylor, is proud of the growth she has seen with Waco’s art scene.
“Even from then to now, you see a lot of growth and you see a lot of things that are looking on the bright side,” she said. “I’m happy to be here and to be a part of it.”
As for Art on Elm Avenue, she said she believes it is something all of Waco should take credit for.
“It’s something that Waco as a whole should be proud of that we have this growing art scene,” Jenkins said. “I feel like anyone can come and enjoy from young to old, to out-of-town even. We are happy to put on this event and really show that Waco has an arts scene.”
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected for accuracy.