Creative Waco: An Interview with Fiona Bond
by Jenuine Poetess
Recently, I had a chance to engage Creative Waco’s Director, Fiona Bond, to learn more about the project, its mission, and movements in Waco toward building and sustaining a thriving Cultural Arts District. I’m pleased to share the interview with you! More. Art. Now!
Jenuine Poetess: Please share a bit about yourself and how you became interested and involved in the arts in Waco.
Fiona Bond: I’m in this because I love the arts and this city and have huge respect and
admiration for those who work so hard to enrich its artistic and cultural life. In the UK, I ran festivals, cultural projects and arts organizations. I guess no one goes into this kind of work for the money or an easy life! However, when you see first-hand the difference that the arts make to places and people – no matter who they are or where they come from, it’s humbling and powerful.
I love Waco for so many reasons. I think it’s one of the most authentic places I’ve ever lived. It’s a wonderful location full of great people doing great things and I think we get to live here at a particularly exciting time in its history.
JP: What is Creative Waco?
FB: We are a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) Corporation established to be Waco’s “Arts Agency.” Cities that have arts agencies have a proven toolkit for growing the arts that combines access to funding (that Waco has not historically received) with growing the arts as part of the overall strategy for our community. Our mission is “to Grow and support the artistic and cultural life of Waco.”
JP: How does Creative Waco serve artists, arts & cultural organizations, and grass-roots efforts in Waco?
FB: I hope we will be able to do this in a number of ways. Firstly, I think we have a role making sure that our wider community, businesses and civic organizations know the power of the arts and cultural sector as an engine for growing Waco. We want to bring new resources to our artists and arts organizations in the form of practical support and also funding and infrastructure that have not historically been available to grow Waco as a Cultural Hub.
Of course, we are not the only organization that is working to serve our artists and cultural organizations. Each part of the cultural “ecosystem” has an important role to play – individual artists are connecting with one another through CTAC. Four Columns Marketing has a monthly “potluck” for creative professionals and Waco Arts Alliance (which we help to co-ordinate) provides opportunities for people who run arts organizations, cultural events and activities. These all do the important work of building community, supporting professional development, and creating opportunities for connecting on all kinds of great ideas.
JP: What are the main functions of CW?
FB: Right now, we are working on setting up the infrastructure that will allow Waco to be successful at creating some of the opportunities that have benefitted peer cities (like Fort Worth, Abilene, Amarillo and Round Rock…even Clifton!). For example, we are coordinating an application for Waco to be designated a Texas Commission on the Arts Cultural District. It also means working with our city and other agencies to start making bids for funding and other opportunities at state and national level. Here in Waco, we are beginning the work of coordinating resources, information and ideas so that we can grow Waco as a cultural hub…and tell the world.
JP: What are some projects CW is working on?
FB: Here are a few…
- Joint funding bids (e.g. with City for NEA funding towards artistic wayfinding that would join East and West Waco);
- Cultural District Application–the work of establishing a robust organization that can act as Waco’s Arts Agency and co-ordinate the Cultural District.
- We won the opportunity for Waco to be a feature city in Americans for the Arts’ national survey about economic impact of the Arts (funded jointly by our City, Chamber, BRC and CVB)
- Making Waco a hub for professional development opportunities for arts leadership (Texans for the Arts Day on Feb 24th at Waco Hippodrome).
- We are also working on making it easier for people in Waco to hear about the arts and artists through a variety of media outlets
JP: What is the place of arts & culture in community development? How important is arts & culture in comparison to work around poverty, education, employment, housing, and commerce?
FB: The arts do community development by their very nature because they are physical, experiential and creative. One of my past roles was to oversee a project that worked with generations of unemployed former mineworkers in Co Durham, England. The arts input gave hope and developed skills in a way that nothing else could. You see this over and over again. Issue-based drama and role-play do a better job of reaching vulnerable teens than telling them what to do, for example. The arts give us language and tools for asking questions, experimenting with complexity and outcomes, and opening up our humanity in ways that are completely unique. There is a lot of research that shows communities with a vibrant arts and cultural life thrive in all the ways we consider vital for “liveability”: Educational outcomes, revitalization, economic development, tourism, community cohesion and pride and even crime reduction. I have yet to see a community in the Western world that managed to “move the needle” on those issues without engaging its artistic and cultural “superpowers.”
JP: What do you hope to see come to life in Waco/Central Texas with regard to the arts?
FB: I would like Waco’s cultural gems to be better known and better supported. We have World-class artists, composers, performers, writers, and experts…right here in Waco and yet there is still a perception that because something is happening in Waco, it’s not quite as good as something presented in a larger or better known city.
I would like to see people who don’t think they care about the arts speak proudly about the vibrant cultural life of our city and relish investing in that and seeing the results, recognizing that it’s an essential part of the healthy growth of our community (just as even non-sports players invest in the important role that sport has in our community).
I would like Waco, with it’s perfect “crossing of the Brazos,” central Texas location to become a flourishing cultural hub for the 21st century – supporting thriving, sustainable, top notch venues and programming across many art forms. Our economic opportunity is not that we are conveniently close to Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and other cultural centers…it is that they are close to us!
- Connect on Facebook and Online to get the latest details, information, and event postings!
- If you are an artist interested in being featured on the Creative Waco site, connect here!
- Support arts in Waco and purchase a blank, painted, or fully customized Creative Waco tote!
Be involved with local arts events: attend, bring friends, buy local artwork & publications, share events with others, help promote what is happening, donate to fund-raising initiatives, visit exhibits, make art, inspire others, create community!
Jenuine Poetess is an artist, visionary, and community organizer. In 2010, she founded In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW), an international, grass-roots, written and spoken-word arts project with chapters throughout Los Angeles, CA; Waco, TX; and Lebanon. Jenuine is the founder of Waco Poets Society and co-founder of the Central Texas Artist Collective. She writes, organizes, and creates rooted in the fierce conviction that holding intentional space, access, and opportunity for all people to foster their creative health is a matter of justice and is a vital asset to the sustainable thriving of communities. She currently lives and poems in Central Texas where she enjoys finding new ways to disrupt the homeostasis of her city. You can contact her at: [email protected].
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.