Waco’s cultural district spotlights Waco’s unique attractions

“Game Day” by Joel Edwards portrays the historic Waco Hippodrome Theatre with celebratory Baylor green and gold banners and enthusiastic Wacoans exploring Waco’s proposed cultural district. Photo courtesy of Creative Waco

By Lindsey McLemore | Reporter

Waco’s official cultural district will launch at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, at Indian Spring Park, during Waco Cultural Arts Fest.

Cultural organizations from around Central Texas combined to form Creative Waco. The organization was founded to unify Waco’s cultural identity and work on developing the cultural district. After working on the application for more than a year, Waco was designated a State of Texas Cultural District on Sept. 7.

Waco’s cultural district will spotlight art, culture and entertainment, so residents and tourists can experience Waco’s unique character.

The Proposed Waco Downtown Cultural Map demonstrates the walking attractions and landmarks that are in between 11th S. Street across the Brazos River and Garrison St. Photo courtesy of Creative Waco

Fiona Bond, executive director for Creative Waco, worked with a team to compile years of cultural research from Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce and other cultural organizations in the area and create a plan of development for Waco’s new cultural district.

“Waco already has interesting things going on but doesn’t have a real identity,” Bond said. “We knew what the people of Waco wanted in terms of culture. That information was all in the research done by the Chambers of Commerce, but nobody had ever put that information together before now.”

Bond describes Creative Waco’s role as “gathering the things Waco already does well as a community, and then asking, ‘Where do we go from here?”

Waco already has a successful symphony orchestra, multiple theater organizations and several public art galleries.

Bond believes the cultural district will have positive effects on not only Waco’s artistic culture, but the local economy and image as well.

“Having a cultural identity is a crucial aspect of making a modern city,” Bond said. “You just can’t have a growing, vibrant city without the arts – it’d be like trying to make a milkshake without using any milk.”

Research from Americans for the Arts shows that the more creative activity there is in a city, the more business and entrepreneurial growth that will follow, and that has a positive trickle-down effect on education and crime rates as well.

Andrea Barefield, main street manager for the City of Waco and member of the Cultural District Task Force, was involved with outlining the boundaries of Waco’s cultural district.

“Waco has always had an amazing artistic story to tell, and I want to help tell that story,” Barefield said. “The official Cultural Arts District designation will open a lot of doors as far as resources are concerned.”

The official designation from the Texas Commission on the Arts means access to state and federal funding for Waco’s cultural district that will help bring more art and culture to Waco in the future.