New art exhibit draws artists to showcase their talent, Waco beauty

The Waco community comes together to enjoy art done by members of Professional Artists of Central Texas. Olivia Havre | Photographer

By Olivia Turner | Staff Writer

The doors of Art Center Waco opened to the public Thursday evening, the walls lined by dozens of vivid artworks for the opening night of local exhibition ‘Art à la Carte.’ Among the multi-colored paintings, detailed drawings and gleaming glassworks stood the individual artists who created them, brought together by Professional Artists of Central Texas (PACT), an organization which promotes the work of 17 artists from central Texas.

Coming from Mart, oils painter Melanie Stokes said PACT found her at just the right time in her life after having moved from Georgia to her new home.

Melanie Stokes with her work in Art a la Cart.
Olivia Havre | Photographer
Melanie Stokes with her work in Art a la Carte.
Olivia Havre | Photographer

“I had to kind of recreate my whole client base and figure out where I fit in and everything, so this group has helped me find that art community,” Stokes said.

Drawing inspiration from the beauty of Baylor’s campus, Stokes painted a series of works over the COVID-19 lockdown, many depicting Pat Neff Hall. Because the campus was so empty at the time, Stokes said she was able to bring her supplies to the peaceful Baylor campus and create several open-air paintings under the sun. She is joined in recreating familiar Baylor scenes by fellow PACT members, some of which are from none other than our very own backyard.

Charles Wallis, a native Wacoan, said he draws much inspiration from his hometown where his passion for art was first ignited as a child.

“When I was a kid, my dad was a Baptist preacher and some lady saw some of my drawings and went and bought me some art supplies,” Wallis said.

Hailey E. Herrera
Olivia Havre | Photographer
Hailey E. Herrera exhibits her works with beautiful floral themes. Olivia Havre | Photographer

Though showcasing mainly conceptual abstract and impressionist paintings at the exhibition, Wallis has painted previous several works, many of which depict historical Waco and Baylor scenes, such as Pat Neff Hall, Baylor Yell Leaders and Waco’s Historical Suspension Bridge.

Also born and raised in Waco, Chesley Smith utilized torn paper scraps from magazines, crayons and watercolors to construct an abstract collage of Art Center Waco, the very building in which he stood with his art works on opening night.

“Art was my passion,” Smith said. “But, my aptitude said I should have been in the medical field. But, I didn’t like it, and so I got into the arts, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Olivia Havre | Photographer
Art Center Waco shows of their new exhibit ‘Art a la Carte.’ Olivia Havre | Photographer

Smith said his father, whom he was deeply inspired by, was the one who encouraged him to pursue his artistic talents. Pointing to the signature at the bottom right corner of an abstract seascape collage, Smith said he signs all his paintings with a handwriting resembling his father’s to honor him.

In similar taste to Smith’s father, artist Cory Lind likewise feels that the arts should be encouraged, especially in the Waco community. Having moved to Waco from New Zealand in 2019, Lind said he realized the city’s potential for success in the arts right away considering its location is central to other major art hubs like Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.

“There’s an art scene here that’s just waiting to pop and it hasn’t happened yet,” Lind said. “We need support from the community to come into these places, these venues, these shows. There’s so much positive, creative energy here. It’s really cool, I love it.”

Artworks created by Chesley Smith displayed in Art Center Waco gallery.
Olivia Havre | Photographer
Artworks created by Chesley Smith displayed in Art Center Waco gallery. Olivia Havre | Photographer

‘Art a la Carte’ will be at Art Center Waco until Mar. 11. The exhibition will be open and free to the public each week Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Olivia Turner is a sophomore from rural Minnesota, with a major in journalism and a secondary major in sociology. This is her second semester at the Lariat and her first semester as Opinion Editor. She is thrilled to take on this role and glad to be working with all the wonderful writers and editors at the Lariat again this year! Once she graduates, she hopes to be a writer for a big-city paper.