Art Center of Waco paints new future for local visual arts

Sophomore David Rambo tries out an Art Center of Waco cutout Wednesday at Creative Waco's Waco 52 pop-up gallery on 712 Austin Ave. Photo credit: Will Barksdale | Multimedia journalist Photo credit: Will Barksdale

By Alexandria Yancy | Guest Contributor

If you drive through the northern sections of the city of Waco, you will find yourself immersed in an abundance of lush trees. Within these trees lies a Spanish-style villa with a gallery of art and passionate people working to create more awareness of the arts—welcome to The Art Center of Waco.

The Art Center of Waco is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of visual arts in Waco and throughout the region of Central Texas.

Established during the 1970s as a permanent visual arts center for Waco, the Art Center has now grown into a popular gallery and a partner with Creative Waco, a nonprofit organization committed to growing a creative community in Waco

The center is now a part of a collection of several organizations to bring arts to the forefront of the city of Waco.

Along with an art gallery on the main floor, the Art Center offers classes for both kids and adults. One of the most popular classes is known as Cookies and Coloring, which is a free art appreciation class for children. During the summer, there are summer camps for children, as well. The Art Center offers a ceramic and figure drawing classes for adults.

Aside from the art classes, the center hosts several exhibits. Amongst the people working at the Art Center, the most loved exhibit, in recent history, was by Greg Davis, a National Geographic Creative photographer. The exhibit, called India’s Kumbh Mela, illustrated the sacred pilgrimage of Kumbh Mela, the largest gathering of people for religious reasons in the world.

The Art Center is a small organization with an even smaller staff. Despite its many offerings and exhibits, the Art Center only has two full-time employees: Meg Gilbert and Megan Legband.

Meg Gilbert, the director, began in May of 2014. She helps plan exhibitions, class schedules, events, and curate the private collection.

“My favorite part about working here is … probably the challenge of trying to reach the public,” Gilbert said. “I really love that I don’t do the same thing any given day.”

Throughout her years at The Art Center, Gilbert said that one of her fondest memories is from the Spring 2015 when the Cookies and Coloring class started, with the help Megan Legband.

“I love teaching it,” Gilbert said. “Seeing kids’ faces light up and hearing their questions. Hearing them repeat names of artists back to me with references to what type of artwork those artists did… All [of] that sort of thing was really, really special.”

Legband, the program coordinator, has worked there since June 2015, after she graduated Baylor.

While as a student at Baylor, Legband was a University Scholar and studied Literature. She said that she never realized how much she could love working in a nonprofit. “Now I want to work with nonprofits for the rest of my life,” Legband said.

Although Gilbert and Legband are relatively new to the Art Center, one person has had a special connection to the Art Center since he was a child. Lance Magid, the vice president of the Studio Gallery, is now a member of the Board of Trustees for the Art Center, serving as the exhibits chair.

“I have grown up with this art center and it means a lot to me, especially being a native Wacoan,” Magid said. “I took classes from my uncle […] as a kid I remember taking workshops from him.”

From watching The Art Center go from its humble beginnings to what it has become today, Magid said that he hopes that the center will continue to grow and host even more multicultural shows.

As for the future of The Art Center, the hopes of continuous growth are among one the many things the staff members say they want to accomplish. Legband said that she hopes to see an increased engagement between the Art Center and young adults within Waco, and for it to become the local center of the community for visual arts.

“It awakens a sense of humanity in a child that really nothing else can,” Legband said. “It provides quality of life, that makes life worth living.”

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Sophomore David Rambo tries out an Art Center of Waco cutout Wednesday at Creative Waco's Waco 52 pop-up gallery on 712 Austin Ave.
Photo credit: Will Barksdale | Multimedia journalist Photo credit: Will Barksdale