Waco Cultural Arts District seeking grant to enliven downtown arts scene

Waco is home to many murals, some that visible from the roadside and some that you have look around to find. Photo credit: Trey Honeycutt

By Katie Grovatt, Reporter

The Cultural Arts District of Waco is applying for a grant to fund the installation of artistic street signs meant to decorate and light up the downtown area. Creative Waco is partnering with the City of Waco to make an application possible.

If successful, the grant will allow for five or six pieces of directional street art. These pieces would be distributed on or within a block of Elm Street and Austin Avenue.

“The goal is to transform places in which people do not want to spend time into places that people do want to spend time,” Creative Waco executive director, Fiona Bond said.

The artistic signs would also include an online component where spectators would be able to access information about the specific destination.

“The online component would bring the stories on these piece to life,” Bond said.

These Artistic Wayfinding signs are about creating a sense of place that is not just about directional signs but about public art.

The goal with the signs is to create a common theme that joins all the different signs around downtown Waco but also always each sight to keep a distinctive identity said Bond. This allows people to find their way around town in a more unique way then usual and standard street signs.

“Wayfinding and connectivity have been some of the things that been identified in the Imagine Waco plan, and in the various plans that represent our community. This is a good way to access funding that might not otherwise be available to our community, and to do something that helps to bring to life some of the areas of our downtown,” Bond said.

A big hope for the artistic signs is the connection of the East and West side of Waco. Creative Waco sees the signs as a potentially good way to join the communities of either sides of the river. The assistant city manager of Waco, Cynthia Garcia shares this same vision.

“We really want to connect both sides of the river, that is something that we have seen in the Imagine Waco plan, we really want to connect them,” Garcia said.

The grant is known as OURTOWN and has been utilized in cities like El Paso and on East 7th street in downtown Austin. The grant requires a partnership between a local government agency and a non-profit art organization. It would include up to $200,000 in funding for these artistic signs.

If the city is successful, they will be awarded the grant in April 2016. If they are awarded the funds, they will begin public meetings ands site selections in August 2016. They would then hope to draft a plan in September, share it with the public in October, and hold proposals with the community in November. Final decisions would be put into place in December, and the execution would then begin from January to August of 2017.

“We really want to have the community input to tell us if this is the right location or not, that is why we have planned so many community meetings, because it could be maybe that’s not where everyone wants them, maybe they want them somewhere else,” Garcia said.

Though the city is following in the footsteps of other cities like Austin by implementing more creative art into the downtown area, they want to make it clear that the Artistic Wayfinding signs will be completely original.

“We don’t want Austin’s, we want something that’s Waco,” Garcia said.