Community gathers for annual creative festival

Bella Ives-Bland, 6, draws on the board of hope. Photo credit: Liesje Powers | Lariat Staff Writer

Food vendors and artists lined the street. A portion of the tents offered face paint to children as well as the opportunity to buy their artwork. Two buildings were open for viewing art — one for featured artists and another for youth art. Buckets filled with chalk were also sprinkled throughout Elm Avenue, leaving the streets covered with chalk art.

The annual local arts festival, Art on Elm Avenue, ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

This year, the event moved further down the street and ran later into the evening compared to previous years. Claire Sexton, artist coordinator for the event, said the changes might have affected how busy the event seemed to be.

“I’ve heard mixed reviews,” Sexton said. “It’s more stretched out geographically and also a longer time frame so — this is my first year — they were saying that at times it was a lot more crowded last year.”

Hurley Johnson, one of the featured artists, said she felt that this year was less profitable.

“This is my third year,” Johnson said. “This year was not as good as it was last year, [but] we didn’t have rain last year.”

One part of the expansion was giving youth artists their own building. Jane Nash, who was in charge of youth art, said she believes the growth is good for the event and surrounding city.

“Last year we had a lot of work, but only from about three schools. This year we have about seven schools participating, and I think that’s the desire, to have more schools,” Nash said. “Even though every other art exhibit is wonderful, this gives a lot of different people an opportunity in our community to see what our kids are doing.”

City Councilman Rev. Wilbert Austin, Sr., was present at the event. Austin volunteered and spoke with visitors in the Youth Art Exhibit building.

“Everything about [Art on Elm] is letting our kids see that the people see that they have potential,” Austin said. “This is a good part of town, and you’re going to have some round rollers all over, wherever you go. West Waco, China — wherever you go, there’s gonna be some outlaws. The most important thing is that we’ve got a peaceful place over here.”

A portion of the artists lined down Elm Avenue were at the festival for the first time. The Ivy Sisters, Jody Rosas and Cheryl Reyna, sold their fused glass.

“I think it’s been great and quite a bit of traffic. The showers kind of slowed people down for a bit but it’s been fun,” Reyna said. “I think we probably will [be coming back].”

Deborah Reed-Propst, artist and teacher, is a generational Wacoan. The location of the art festival is a large part of its impact, according to Propst.

“I think that Elm street itself, being a place that wasn’t developed before, opening it up to the whole city and bringing people here brings all the races together and all the cultural groups together in the name of art,” Propst said. “I think Waco is big enough and there’s a lot of artists here who need to get out, and the community needs to recognize that.”

Art on Elm Avenue is powered by Waco Cultural Arts Fest, and includes more of the community every year, said Nash.

“This is the fifth year and it’s increased in participation, it’s increased in involvement of the community and it’s increased in numbers every year,” Nash said.