Waco Arts Fest brings free art and entertainment to students

Last year's Waco Cultural Arts Festival. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

By Helena Hunt, Staff Writer

The free Waco Cultural Arts Festival will take over downtown starting at 6 p.m. today, with three days of music, food trucks, dance, film and more at the Waco Convention Center and Indian Spring Park.

From tonight to Sunday afternoon, students and locals alike are invited to celebrate one or more of the five festivals making up the Cultural Arts Fest. MusicFest, WordFest, {254}dance-fest, ScienceFest and Celebration Africa FilmFest will provide something for every attendee to enjoy, said Sandi Horton, one of the festival’s board members.

The festival will open today with a free College Night geared to Baylor students. A range of musical acts, including Union Revival and blues group Mojo Assassins, will play on the outdoor amphitheater at Indian Spring Park until 11 p.m.

As part of College Night, students will also have the opportunity to listen to public readings of poetry and prose in the Waco Convention Center starting at 7:30 p.m. today. After the performances, Horton expects there will be an opportunity for students to participate in an opportunity for students to participate in an open mic performance.

Last year's Waco Cultural Arts Festival. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

“The written and spoken word arts are a huge discipline that [is] represented here in central Texas,” said Jennifer Alambaugh, who organized the WordFest. “We hope that the Baylor community will participate as well, because all voices and all stories matter, no matter what side of the highway you’re from.”

The Arts Fest will bring in even more members of the Baylor community for Saturday’s musical performances. The Baylor Campus Orchestra and the Baylor Opera will both have the chance to perform to an audience of locals, tourists and students.

“I think it’s a great outreach to the community for us to play [at the Arts Festival],” said Dr. Michael L. Alexander, director of the Orchestra. “It’s just a great opportunity for everyone in the community to showcase what’s going on in the arts.”

Horton said the weekend is an opportunity for visitors to experience examples of art, music and film that they might not normally see.

“We’re trying to expose [guests] to some different types of music, maybe what most people probably wouldn’t think to go to,” Horton said. “We try to throw in a lot of different groups.”

Horton said she hopes to reach all audiences with activities that are tailored to their interests. Writing workshops, art exhibits and even science-themed activities demonstrating the integration of art and technology will entertain the 20,000 visitors Horton expects to see over the weekend.

Last year's Waco Cultural Arts Festival. Photo credit: Lariat File Photo

Because of its diverse line-up, the festival takes about one year to organize, Horton said. Board members must contact donors and grant sponsors, who ensure that the festival stays a free event, as well as potential artists and performers. The efforts of the organizing team have expanded the festival from a simple venue for art and music, to the dance, film, science and writing spectacular it is today. And it’s only getting bigger, Horton said, to meet the demands of each year’s crowd.

To close the festival, six choirs will perform patriotic songs together with the audience at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. This final performance demonstrates the unity of all the artists and visitors coming together to celebrate art, Horton said.

“It represents our love of the arts, and how important we think they are to our culture,” Horton said.

Any students who wish to help with the festival meet its demands may fill out a volunteer form on the Waco Cultural Arts Festival’s website before the weekend begins.