Annual Art on Elm festival recognizes talented Waco youth

By Molly Atchison | Print Managing Editor

The east side of Waco was bustling with activity this weekend as Art on Elm brightened the street with vibrant images created by the youth of Waco. From April 6 to 7, between Dallas Street and Sherman Street, NeighborWorks Waco and Cultural Arts Waco brought vendors, artists and the Waco community together to appreciate creations displayed in the ArtPlace.

2018 is the seventh year that Art on Elm has featured paintings made by local Waco students, and the display included artwork from elementary to high school aged, awarding the top student work at each grade level with first, second and third place ribbons. The judges were a collection of local artists and teachers that evaluated each piece on qualities that stood out to them. Delisa Burnell-Smith, CEO of NeighborWorks and executive assistant to Roy Nash, spoke about the event and its origins.

“I believe it started in 2011,” Burnell-Smith said. However, it wasn’t until about 2014 that the group decided to include children’s artwork.

NeighborWorks has worked in East Waco with the purpose of revitalizing that area of the city. In addition to running Art on Elm, they offer programs such as one-on-one advising in budgeting and financial security, new construction projects and lending services. Art on Elm is only one of the primary ways they contribute to East Waco, investing much time and effort into the event.

Jane Nash, wife of NeighborWorks CEO Roy Nash, said Burnell-Smith and Roy Nash created the event in order to help the community. “They started this exhibit because they wanted to help revitalize East Waco, starting with Elm Avenue,” Jane Nash said. “Out of a community leadership institute, they decided to start with art.”

Jane Nash said she contributed to the idea of featuring student artwork at Art on Elm after volunteering with the organization herself.

“I helped my husband with it, and for the next few years, I volunteered, and one year I told my husband, ‘You need to involve the kids,’ because I used to be a teacher down in Temple, and I realized that it was always parents who were coming to see the artwork when their children were involved.”

Art on Elm also attracted local vendors to round out the event. There were several live musicians present, including the Brazos Brothers, Navy Band, Tea Aguilar and Change of Pace, who performed throughout the day on Friday and Saturday. The event featured several food stands, including The Boardwalk on Elm, which offered old-fashioned burgers and street food, Rufi’s Cocina, which offered authentic Mexican food and Arts Fest’s hot dogs and nachos, which offered quick treats for those uninterested in a full meal. Brotherwell Brewery, a new local brewery, offered refreshments to accompany the food.

Art on Elm annually brings a unique art experience to Waco, recognizing the growing artistic talent of Waco’s youth and allowing the city to experience it for themselves. The artwork, the vendors and the vision of NeighborWorks brought Elm Ave. to life.