Central Texas Artist Collective: If you build it…

by Steve Veracruz

Let’s go back to the year 1997 for a moment. I had just graduated University High School and, without even taking a summer off to gaze into a field of dreams, I immediately enrolled at TSTC in commercial art.  I felt like this would give me a snapshot of this particular artist community. I was intrigued to finally grow beyond my familiar borders and meet other like-minded creatives.

Unfortunately, the artist environment I expected of meetups or regular special exhibitions for our young demographic did not exist at the time.

Just as early settlers did what was necessary for their survival, the artists in the early days of my creative lifetime in this city did what was necessary to demonstrate and share their talent. There were different attempts to add pockets of opportunity, to share artwork in diverse locations across the city on an organic level. Outspoken and talented artists helped pave the way to the point of excellence we find ourselves in now.  I couldn’t be more grateful for those displays of bravery and showing what true creative freedom looked like.  This is what was needed to carry on the message of freedom, those early artists and appreciators testing their own strength to sustain imaginative work in a time when the city and its society were content with a stale status quo.

However, these patches of creative energy were still few and far between. We needed to pull them together. How do we make space for this idea or what do we want to do about this idea? More importantly, who do we talk to about this idea? These were questions that provided the incentive to move. This is why we founded the Central Texas Artist Collective (CTAC).

Back to the future…The city of Waco has grown in more ways than I could have imagined.  There are so many reasons to be happy about being a creative in this city, with so many places that have opened their doors to this expanding community.  There are now big shows in multiple annual events, big ideas in special exhibitions with a message, big dreams beginning in discussions during artist meetups, and big aspirations coming from each other from our own experiences. This is what a creative environment can produce! This is why it was necessary to build pillars for a strong artist community!

As a co-founder of CTAC, I had to identify the importance of what this role would mean, not just for myself, but for others as well. The three questions previously mentioned were at the base of a movement that was to develop. Another noteworthy point to make…one cannot go at it alone. I am a “co-founder.” The ideas to come required more effort than one person could provide and needed alternative perspectives. The other co-founders had to believe with the same amount of passion about what the goal was for artists in general. It is this positive reinforcement that created that right amount of energy to build something special.

One project often leads to another. Then that can also lead into something else. These multiplicities of creativity suddenly become a foundation with which to continue to build. Other artists’ groups began to appear. One group alone cannot bear the responsibility of being the sole provider. Sometimes the language from one group to another is different, or maybe a particular taste does not quite hit with one group, but catches on with another. Maybe it’s just about the journey until each group finds its niche. These are decisions to be respected and recognized with that appreciation of having yet more options that were built in light of a creative community’s skills.

The point is to build the creative community. If you build it, you can share the imagination and artistic energy that some perceive as fundamental and some simply admire. If you build it, you hold a place for assisting in someone’s growth. If you build it, you provide another stake for significant influence on a prosperous community. My question to you now is, if you build, will they come? And, how do we keep building and strengthening our creative environment? What next?

One of my next projects is to begin a small video series for Central Texas Artist Collective going into this subject further. I will begin by interviewing those movers and shakers around town that have stood and delivered. Definitely check out our Facebook page, as well as our YouTube channel for this material and more coming soon! We are creating.  Let’s keep creating. What do you want to create?


The Central Texas Artist Collective exists to foster creative expression throughout the Heart of Texas by:

  • Unifying and growing arts and cultural programming;
  • Enhancing arts education and access for all;
  • Cultivating an organic, sustainable identity; and
  • Celebrating the rich community of artists living, creating and investing in Waco and beyond.

 CTAC is comprised of: writers, musicians, visual artists, textile artists, theater artists, dancers sculptors, muralists, photographers, potters, singer/songwriters, poets/spoken-word, carpentry/woodworking, tattoo artists, graphic designers, jewelers, culinary artists, and more!

Centexartistcollective.org | facebook.com/CenTexArtist

Twitter: @ CenTexArtist | email:centexartistcollective@gmail.com


Steve Veracruz is CTAC Co-founder, executive co-director and communications created in 2015 with wife Angie Veracruz. He is a USMC vet and father of three. He sat on the Board of Directors in Waco Cultural Arts, serving now as an advisor. He is also curator to Ekphrasis Art and Words, a special exhibition which combines the visual artists with the writing community to express a message with meaning. He is passionate about collaboration in community.

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