Local artist recovers after Waco Art Forum catches fire

In what is being investigated as an arson, fire consumed the Waco Art Forum Tuesday morning. Inside was thousands of dollars worth of sculptures and art projects from the Art Forum community. Photo credit: Courtesy Art

By Matt Dotson, Reporter

A small community of artists is slowly recovering after a fire caused structural damage to the Waco Art Forum early Tuesday morning.

A small community of artists is slowly recovering after a fire caused structural damage to the Waco Art Forum early Tuesday morning.

According to Waco Fire Department investigations, locals speculate the fire was a result of arson. The details of the incident are still under investigation, said Riley Kilgo, City of Waco fire lieutenant.

The gallery and studio space of the Waco Art Forum holds the work of many artists. Jesus Rivera housed his 10-foot-tall cat sculpture made of wood, chicken wire, papier-mâché and Styrofoam in the studio space. Rivera said the cat sculpture is where he believes the fire originated.

“I had been working on the sculpture for a year for my exhibition,” Rivera said. “Last night there was a fire in the back of the building where my sculpture was. I don’t know if they were mad or they didn’t like my art.”

The sculpture wasn’t the only item damaged. A car that had been parked in the back suffered a melted bumper and one of its back windows had been vandalized. The interior of the building displays smoke damage.

“It’s dangerous to be in the building,”Rivera said. “If you’re in there for just 15 or 20 seconds you get a headache.”

The back patio and ceiling was also burned as a result of the flames.

Jesus Rivera is a native of Mexico. He said part of the reason he came to Waco was to encourage art and culture.

“I’m a little bit sad that this happened because our Waco needs more culture,” Rivera said. “And though we’re trying to sort out this cultural venue, someone came in and damaged it.”

Many of the local artists were deeply saddened by the incident, according to activity on Rivera’s Facebook page. Many expressed concerns, offering prayers and help to the heartbroken artist.

Marsha Wilson, fellow participant of the Waco Art Forum said she sympathizes with Rivera.

“I think it’s absolutely horrible,” Wilson said. “Here you have a man that takes what is basically a worthless building and tries to make something good out of it, and then someone ruins it.”

Rivera who spent around $2,000 on materials for his sculpture, said he doesn’t have the budget to make another statue. Despite the setback, he said he refuses to stop.

“Maybe little by little I will get the materials to rebuild my statue,” Rivera said. “I’m stronger, and I have a lot of love for the people of Waco, for my children for my youth, and I will continue to do this for the people of Waco.”