Creative Waco founder talks art projects, involvement in community

Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.

By Clay Thompson 

After living in several different countries, Creative Waco founder Fiona Bond ended up in Waco, a move that might have surprised her friends overseas, but as she put it, both she and her family fell in love with the town and its potential. 

Fiona Bond of Creative Waco

“We followed our curiosity, and the rest is history,” Bond said. “When I saw Waco, I saw the green shoots of opportunity and creativity here.” 

What Bond said she loves most about Waco, aside from its cultural awakening, is the people. 

“Every place is made by its people,” she said. 

Bond saw Waco as a place that had not yet woken up to its full potential. She described it as being like a slightly gawky teenager who doesn’t yet recognize the extent of their true beauty and talent. 

“The thing I find most compelling is that it has truly world-class talent that has not yet been discovered by the wider World,” Bond said. “And we get to be the generation that cultivates Waco’s cultural identity for years to come.”

Bond recently earned a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Baylor University, which, along with running Creative Waco full time and juggling family life with husband Bruce Longenecker (a religion professor at Baylor) and two active teen sons, did not leave spare time for much else. With the pandemic restricting arts programming and no more MBA study, she now has a little more time to discover Waco’s other assets.  

“I go kayaking on the lake or rivers every opportunity I get,” Bond said. She also loves hiking Waco’s abundance of trails and cycling between downtown meetings. She and Bruce are active members of DaySpring Baptist Church, and she admires the work of her fellow nonprofit leaders. 

“I like to work with the nonprofits in the community. That happens mostly through Creative Waco. We love to get involved with things where we are not necessarily the lead organization, and we’re coming alongside to support and add value to amazing work that other people are doing.” 

Bond considers herself lucky to be involved in the “awakening” of Waco, as she describes it. By working at Creative Waco, she has led multiple cultural and artistic projects that are shaping the city. 

One of the early transformative projects was Waco 52, which showcased Waco as a newly designated State of Texas Cultural District. Fifty-two visual artists from Waco were selected by two international judges and had their work exhibited in the rotunda of the state capitol in 2017. 

The exhibition was accompanied by a publication with preface by former President George W. Bush, and Chip and Joanna Gaines. Bond laughingly points out that this may be “the only publication in which they have appeared together – but they are all local artists, after all.” 

The exhibition was turned into a deck of playing cards which is still sold to support arts programs in Waco. A second exhibition of the work back in Waco became the catalyst for the gallery that became Cultivate 7Twelve on Austin Avenue where Creative Waco’s office is now based.

“That project just gave and gave,” Bond said. “Everybody involved benefitted hugely, and so did our community. For the first time, a large cohort of outstanding artists were proud to link their professional reputation to Waco.” 

Bond founded Creative Waco, a nonprofit that serves as the “Local Arts Agency” (arts council or arts commission) and whose mission is “to grow and support a thriving cultural and creative community in Waco and McLennan County.” Bond said its goal is to bring together the elements necessary to grow a cultural hub where artists and creative professionals can be successful. 

Bond originally discovered Waco because her husband was offered a chair at Baylor. “It was definitely not on our top 10 list of places we thought we might want to live, but when we visited for the first time, we fell in love with Waco and that relationship has deepened over time.”

When her family moved here, she was surprised there was not an organization like Creative Waco that existed to develop strategy and resources for the arts. She eventually found a coalition of leaders who shared her vision that growth for the arts would mean growth and benefit for everyone.

“Everyone naturally wants to have their piece of the pie,” she said. “Growing the arts is not about cutting that pie into smaller pieces to make it go further. It’s about sowing the seeds for a bigger harvest – so you can cook a bigger pie – and then make more of them.”

Clay Thompson is a freshman journalism major at Baylor. 

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

MCC Hearts in the Arts Gala features mystery & fashion

By Kim Patterson

When I was a kid, my favorite board game was Clue. Something about being transported inside an imaginary mansion to solve a murder mystery awakened my inner detective, and I loved assuming a serious poker face as I deduced “whodunit.” 

If you, too, enjoy the fun of solving a mystery, join us for “Clue: The Musical” Hearts in the Arts Gala sponsored by McLennan Community College.  This year, due to recent weather disruptions, the event has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 4, at the MCC Ball Performing Arts Center. 

Now in its 19th year, the Hearts in the Arts Gala has become a community favorite with its blend of dining and a musical performed by McLennan Theatre students.  This year’s production provides loads of inspiration for patrons who enjoy dressing to the theme of the show, and Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet are already on the guest list. 

Kermit Oliver
(photo courtesy of Waco Tribune-Herald)

Adding to the fun, and also extended one week, are ticket sales for a chance to win one of two Hermès scarves designed and autographed by internationally renowned Waco artist Kermit Oliver. Oliver is the only American artist ever commissioned for the exclusive Hermès Paris fashion house. Generous supporters of McLennan Arts donated the scarves and acquired the autographs on Oliver’s highly sought-after Kachinas and Pawnee designs. An Hermès scarf bearing Oliver’s unique artwork and signature is exceptionally rare and virtually priceless.

Hermès Kachinas Scarf

Tickets for the Scarf in the Arts raffle are $20 each or six for $100 and are available online until 11:59 p.m., March 3 at www.mclennan.edu/foundation/scarfinthearts. Tickets may be purchased in person at the March 4 Gala until intermission when the winning tickets will be drawn. Winner need not be present to win.

“Clue: The Musical” opened off Broadway in 1997 to mixed reviews, but the clever show has experienced a renaissance in community theatre in years since. The musical offers an interactive feature in which audience members help determine which of the show’s colorful characters killed Mr. Boddy, what weapon they used and in which room of Boddy Mansion the murder took place. Based on the cards drawn, there are 216 possible endings to the show — a feature that will challenge the acting chops of the cast. The McLennan production will be directed by theatre faculty choreographer Joe Taylor.

In-person tickets for the Gala are sold out, but virtual guests may view a live stream of the production at a secure link. Tickets are $100 each and include a generous voucher for dining at Di Campli’s Italian Ristorante in lieu of the usual cocktail dinner.

Hearts in the Arts is an affinity group of the MCC Foundation that supports the arts at McLennan, and event and raffle proceeds benefit scholarships for area students. Gala reservations are due by Thursday, Feb. 25. To make reservations, or to inquire about the Scarf in the Arts raffle, contact the McLennan Community College Foundation at 254-299-8604 or reservations@mclennan.edu.

Kim Patterson is executive director of McLennan Community College Foundation and the Office of Institutional Advancement. Patterson is a graduate of Baylor University with degrees in journalism and marketing. In 2017, she earned a master’s degree in management and leadership from Tarleton State University. She and her husband Frank have two grown children and enjoy camping, fishing, and hiking. 

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

‘Tree of Life’ mural marks East Waco past & future

By Ferrell Foster

Waco celebrated its Black heritage & future, the arts, and the return of banking to East Waco in a Monday evening gathering. The new Tree of Life mural extends along one wall of TFNB’s new East Waco bank. TFNB “Your Bank for Life” is at 715 Elm Ave. The mural reflects the commitment of TFNB, Creative Waco, Waco ISD student artists, and the broader Black community of East Waco.

Vincent Thomas and Cade Kegerreis were lead designers for the mural project, while Kristen Thompson and Tashita Bibles served as artist mentors. A film also captured the work, it Andreas Zaloumis served as film mentor.

An information card at the celebration said:

“The Tree of Life mural represents the unity that is rooted in community, wisdom, and understanding. Individuals grow from their ancestors, passing along knowledge of how they came to be. The many stories are often intertwined when focusing on a specific place, such as historically rich East Waco. This mural is designed to highlight the flourishing community rooted in Elm Street.

“Generations of families in East Waco have grown and thrived through hardships and represent a vibrant culture that has often been overlooked and under appreciated. Co-designers Vincent Thomas and Cade Kegerreis considered this project an opportunity to reflect these rich stories and respect the history of this neighborhood while looking to its future and aspirations.”

Prosper Waco has posted short videos of some of the comments made during the celebration — Andrea Barefield, Linda Lewis, and Fiona Bond.

The mural served as completion of ARTPrenticeship 2020, with the following apprentices participating in the project:

Jonathan Campos

Vanesa Carvajal

Lina Denson

Rafael Flores

Fate King

Zander Lim

Angelina Monroy

Jasmin Nunez

Lillian Olvera

Larissa Rodriguez

Niala Speedwell

Maria Duarte Tavera

Tahlia Tran

Ja’Nasia Whitfield

Ferrell Foster is acting executive director of Act Locally Waco and senior content specialist for care and communication with Prosper Waco.

Mural Monday: Julie Milstead

Julie Milstead with her “Mural for The Cove”

By Debbie Wright

Julie Milstead is a local artist and educator. She has partnered with Creative Waco to bring works of art alive all across the city. Her day job is with kids at Midway Middle School, and she takes her role as an educator very seriously. 

She translated this love in her life into a recent Mural for The Cove, which is a teen nurturing center designed to provide a safe space for students experiencing homelessness to access the resources they need to thrive. It is a partnership with Creative Waco and their “artprenticeship.” The mural shows a beautiful mosaic-style yellow bird trailed by puzzle pieces. 

Harold Brown, the Cove’s community relations coordinator, said the puzzle pieces represent all the people that help the Cove students and the bird itself represents the Cove students and their ability to overcome and soar above anything that comes their way. Milstead said this was an amazing experience where she was able to work with some beautiful souls.

Not only has she worked on The Cove mural, she also worked on some fun Baylor-inspired murals on windows downtown. Since Baylor Homecoming was canceled in 2020, artists took to the walls of Waco to celebrate and depict scenes of Baylor throughout our town. If you get the chance to swing by the Hippodrome and Raleigh on 8th Street and Austin Avenue you can find her two bear pieces. One is reminiscent of the Baylor Sailor bear in a colorful pop art tile-grid style, and the other is a stylized balloon bear. 

Julie Milstead with “COVID Kisses”

I actually ran into Julie at one of my favorite coffee locations, Pinewood Coffee Bar, off Austin Ave., while she was in the process of painting some beautiful bears wearing masks with the fabulous Fiona Bond. This piece was a part of the #WacoSafe mural project, and she calls this painting “COVID Kisses.” In 2020, she also participated in the #WeChalkWaco campaign in partnership with MC Art Supplies.

Milstead has worked all over Waco, and you might have even seen some of her works in the past at Dichotomy and not even known it. 

Though she is a talented artist who has worked with many mediums — including painting on sidewalks, walls, glass, shoes, tables, drum rims, and even gaming controllers — she works a lot with acrylic paint to bring her abstract designs to life on canvas. Her abstract works are visually stunning with bright colors and texture. 

One of my personal favorite collections is her Waco Cityscapes collection, and you can find one featured at The Brazos Theatre. To find more of her art and follow her on her journey on Instagram @julie_milstead_artists. There you can see her many loves and the things she is inspired by, like her travels, her family, and even Jujitsu.


Debbie Wright runs the local Know Waco Podcast, which features upcoming events and activities happening in and around the Waco area. She is a recent Texas Tech graduate, with a major in communications and minor in public relations. She has lived in the Waco area for 10 years and loves to work with local creatives and artists. 

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 Ferrell Foster at ferrell@prosperwaco.org.

Mural Monday: Tyler Kay

By Debbie Wright

Tyler Kay is Texan, raised right outside of Houston on her family property in Katy. She is the type of person who sees a freshly painted white wall and immediately thinks ‘I really want to paint that’. That is exactly what happened back in 2017 when she was visiting Waco with her family. She walked right in the building with her dog by her side and spoke with the owners of Savage Finds, Joey & Tammy.  They agreed to let her do it!  Joey, actually thought of the phrase, “My greatest find…” so the mural is a mix of her style of florals and his clever wit. Now the beautiful mural has become one of the “greatest finds” in downtown Waco.

Coincidentally, the interview for this article took place on the 3-year anniversary of the mural, which was completed on October 15, 2017. She said this mural really “got the ball rolling” for her and gave her more opportunities for murals. Now, painting murals is both her hobby and day Job, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Murals are my everything, I only do murals and art now, so it is pretty much my life,” she said.  As evidence to back up her statement, her were smudged with bright colored paint here and there and even her cell phone had colorful droplets scattered across it.

Her inspiration for becoming an artist came from a big turning point in her life. Her boyfriend died in a car accident and this caused her to reevaluate her life. “I am wanting to leave something behind for me to be remembered by and make a difference,” she said. She calls this “Mortality Motivation” and it has helped her turn dark moments in her life into light. She sometimes creates art works titled with important or pivotal dates from her life.  The numerical values in her “Glitch & Glam” painting series are based on the dates of occurrences in her life that she acknowledges as instances of redirection towards her bigger purpose. Glitch 12.20 represents December 20th, the date of her boyfriend’s accident.

This surprisingly has become one of her most successful and favorite pieces. She has showed her works across the country and her paintings have been featured in renowned art exhibitions, music festivals, and publications. While on exhibition at Art Basel Miami, that piece sold to a private collector in only two days. “Glitch & Glam” is one of her favorite series and she said she hopes to expand and continue it in the future.

Tyler specializes in florals and enjoys incorporating meaningful quotes into her compositions. Many of her works focus on positivity and growth. “I am loving how much my works can be interpreted and people can bring so many different meanings to it (the murals),” she said. She loves seeing people interact with her pieces and finds herself smiling and happy crying over all the pictures people share with her murals of engagement pictures, weddings, and even maternity pictures. “Public art is what I love because people can interpret it in so many ways,” she said lovingly.

After her schooling at the University of Houston, where she obtained a Bachelors of Art and a Masters in Arts Leadership. She got a job at Bisong Art Gallery, also in Houston. She worked her way up from mopping floors to being a gallery director. That position opened doors and gave her many new experiences. One of her earliest murals was for a dance studio, from there it was just one after the other until now she does it for a living.

Though she loves what she does, she also loves to travel and see the world. “I would just pack up and go to Europe for a month… That may seem like a long time but since I never really have time off and work every Saturday and Sunday it works as a great break,” she said while talking about her love of travel and culture.

If you are interested in finding out more about Tyler Kay or are interested in purchasing some of her art, follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/tylerkay/ or her other social medias and buy her prints at https://tyler-kay.com/ .


Debbie Wright runs the local Know Waco Podcast, which features upcoming events and activities happening in and around the Waco area. She is a recent Texas Tech graduate, with a major in communications and minor in public relations. She has lived in the Waco area for ten years and loves to work with local creatives and artists. 

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

Epiphanies: New Works Festival is a Great Example of the Mission of Wild Imaginings Performing Arts Group

By Trent Sutton

The Epiphanies New Works Festival arose in much the same way that many of the projects at Wild Imaginings do. It started with a discovered desire in the Waco community, a conversation over coffee, and two people dreaming together. I can still remember the Friday morning that I sat in Fabled across the table from Rosalind Jackson-Roe, the Festival’s co-founder. It started as, “Well, what if we…” and by the end of an hour, had turned into “Ok, so here’s what we have to do.”

Since that conversation, a truly remarkable journey has been embarked upon. A process has been created unlike any that I have seen, and the feedback from those involved has been incredible.

We had the privilege of granting 8 of playwrights the opportunity to hear their work read aloud at a table reading, after which they were able to interact with the actors and receive invaluable feedback. They were then given time to revise their work and resubmit it, after which we chose 4 of those 8 to be performed at the festival. Far from solely a performative opportunity, we have designed Epiphanies to be a form of professional development that is often difficult to come by.

Watching these plays come to life before my eyes, seeing playwrights see their dreams dance before their very eyes, and witnessing the progress of ideas as they chase the proverbial sunset—these are the reasons that I do what I do. Epiphanies has encompassed the heart of Wild Imaginings in ways that I could never have foreseen, and that it was formed in the very type of collaborative ‘bring dreams to life’ kind of way that our very organization was built upon makes it that much sweeter.

From the beginning, our mission at Wild Imaginings has been to be a community where creativity reigns. And our mission is shaped accordingly, that we may remain fully committed to 5 key things, that we lovingly refer to as the rules of the reign:

  • Creating an affirming community in which local artists are empowered to pursue the development of new and relevant work.
  • Valuing the identity and dignity of all persons by creating a safe space for difficult conversations through the art of storytelling. 
  • Cultivating a willingness to explore, experiment, and otherwise push the boundaries of what performing arts can be and the impact they can have in the community. 
  • Striving to elevate the role of performing arts in Waco by maintaining their standards of originality, relevance, and artistic excellence. 
  • Preserving the joy of performance by refusing to let go of childish dreams, fantastic fantasies, and wild imaginings.

Epiphanies, simply put, checks each of these boxes in a remarkable way. You can be certain that it is going to be a part of the lifeblood of Wild Imaginings, an event to which we may look forward to seeing year after year. Because for Wild Imaginings, and certainly for Epiphanies, this is only the beginning.

And who knows what other coffeeshop dreams will happen next?


Trent Sutton is the Founder and Artistic Director of Wild Imaginings, a newly formed performing arts nonprofit here in Waco, TX. He has recently graduated from Truett Seminary with his Master of Divinity, and has already made Waco his home. He is passionate about the arts and believes them to be the best way in which he can contribute to the city which he has grown to love so much. He believes Wild Imaginings is uniquely positioned to truly bring a different flavor of art to Waco, and he is excited for what this new adventure will bring. His desire is that this community be limited only by the scope of their imaginations. His favorite thing is sharing dreams and ideas and working together to bring them to life. So don’t hesitate to reach out!

Mural Monday: Shay Scranton

By Debbie Wright

Shay Scranton is a Waco local who has recently contributed to the growing list of murals in the Waco Community. His mural can be found at One Day Bar , one of the new coffee-and-cocktails establishments downtown on Columbus Ave. As a local creative, Scranton runs his own graphic design company and has worked with multiple companies around town. His lifelong interests in drawing and illustration, combined with his passion for metal music and the alternative scene, have led to a collection of works with a special focus on death and dark themes. 

Scranton describes his most recent mural as “Deisel Punk “ with ties back to stylings of Mad Max, early comic book skylines, and inspirations from artists and creatives like Frank Miller and Kris Straub. “I really dig making these two-dimensional, cut-out looking silhouetted skylines. So, when the idea to do a skyline for this (the mural) it was perfect and really fun,” Scranton said. Though he is not normally a muralist, this passion project was kicked off by his friend Kyler Griffith, who is the owner of the new bar.  With previous works with Native Sons, Pinewood Roasters, The Glass Phoenix, and Common Grounds (where he got his start as a band poster artist), his reputation with well-known local brands has grown his company and has made him somewhat of a veteran in the Waco art community. “I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. I’ve been here long enough and been working with local companies in some graphic capacity for 15 years,” Scranton said.

Scranton started his career as an artist right here in the heart of Texas, though he spent his early life as a musician and has traveled far and wide. Since Scranton started in the music industry at the young age of fourteen, with the Waco punk band Well Inside Out,  music production and the alternative lifestyle has influenced his artistic style and personal aesthetic. “I am constantly experimenting with new ideas and styles and things, just to see what works…but when I started doing artwork related to music, band T-shirts were my favorite things to do. The style kind of developed around that. It was very detailed oriented and I want to create images so detailed they tell their own story,” Scranton said.

Scranton specializes in shirt designs, band posters and logo designing. With subjects ranging from monsters, Dungeons & Dragons designs. Many of his works are playful yet dark expressions with high contrast colors; complex, hyper-stylized characters; and heavy metal lettering. This has evolved from some of his past projects like Funeral Confetti (his art novelty company), where he designed custom enamel pins, patches and did home screen printing. Along with that, he has worked with other media and even produced a full-length Dungeons & Dragons show called Darkest Dove that can be found on Youtube. He hinted there were some new things in the process of being completed, however, he prefers to keep some things secret until they are complete. For more recent work, you can find him on social media @shayscranton and through his website at http://www.shayscranton.com/. You can also contact him at shaycscranton@gmail.com.


Debbie Wright runs the local Know Waco Podcast, which features upcoming events and activities happening in and around the Waco area. She is a recent Texas Tech graduate, with a major in communications and minor in public relations. She has lived in the Waco area for ten years and loves to work with local creatives and artists. 

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.orgfor more information.

From Zoom rehearsal to stage, Waco’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to premiere

By Trent Sutton

“All the world’s a stage.”

Though we aren’t performing those particular words of Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, those words have truly been put to the test as we have prepared this performance. 

Wild Imaginings had planned to launch our Summer Shakespeare series this summer anticipating it being a big community event that would become annual fare for years to come. Much like the rest of the world, all of those plans were brought into serious question in the midst of the rise of COVID-19. 

We felt, however, that we ought to press ahead, even in the face of uncertainty. We’re an arts organization after all, and limitations are nothing more than creative boundaries.

With this in mind, we held auditions for the show via Zoom and proceeded to have rehearsals for the show via Zoom. I can’t say it’s something I recommend. I think we all got really tired of one another’s faces on our computer screens. But despite the fact that we couldn’t plan our movement for the show, we worked through the script as best we could while online. 

And truly, through this process, we have discovered that all the world is indeed a stage. Even virtually speaking. Sometimes we came together not just from different homes but from different cities and even different states. And all the while, we prepared, we worked through the text, we developed our characters, and when it was finally safe to rehearse in person, we dove in head-first, ready to put it all together. And in just a couple short weeks, we have had to transfer everything we learned via Zoom to the real in-person world. 

The third commitment which Wild Imaginings holds in its value statement is “cultivating a willingness to explore, experiment, and otherwise push the boundaries of what performing arts can be and the impact they can have on the community.” And you know, the world in which we currently find ourselves has put that commitment to the test.

We have explored the depths to which we can connect through online platforms; we have experimented with different ways of rehearsing and learning together; and we continue to push the boundaries of what performing arts can be, as we figure out ways to move from Zoom to my living room to finally Common Grounds. 

And as far as impact on the community goes, we hope that this will be every bit the community event that we hoped it would be, albeit with smaller numbers of people. We are fully committed to the safety of our audience, which is why we’ll be working with Common Grounds to limit seating per state guidelines.

So to help navigate this challenge, we’ve decided to record a performance so that people can buy “tickets” to the recording. 

Our goal from the beginning in launching this Summer Shakespeare production has been to make it accessible to anyone who wants to come. We believe ART IS FOR EVERYONE. In our efforts to maintain this desire, we want to be sure it remains accessible, even for those who may not yet be comfortable venturing out. 

We cannot wait to share this with the Waco community. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been such fun to work on, despite the challenges we faced. I’ve had the privilege of working with an amazing cast, and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to see them perform, because it’s definitely worth it. 

Love triangles, angry fathers, fairy magic, mischief, and even a play within a play (I think that’s called playception). This is a Shakespearean work of art that you’re going to want to make sure is a part of your summer.

Tickets can be found at http://wildimaginingswaco.com/shakespeare/.

And even if you can’t make it, you can purchase a “ticket” to the video recording when we have it or else just make a donation. We need your help to make Summer Shakespeare something that we can share with the Waco community for years to come.

Trent Sutton is founder and artistic director of Wild Imaginings, a newly formed performing arts nonprofit here in Waco. He has recently graduated from Truett Seminary with his Master of Divinity and has already made Waco his home. He is passionate about the arts and believes them to be the best way in which he can contribute to the city he has grown to love so much. He believes Wild Imaginings is uniquely positioned to truly bring a different flavor of art to Waco, and he is excited for what this new adventure will bring. His desire is that this community be limited only by the scope of their imaginations. His favorite thing is sharing dreams and ideas and working together to bring them to life. So don’t hesitate to reach out.

Notes from the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival

By Andie Chilson

Kevin and Sam Sorbo with Moderator, Jim Nash of The Shooter FM, during the Talk Back after the Opening Night Movie, “Miracle in East Texas,” which was produced by Sam Sorbo and directed by Kevin Sorbo (who also starred in the movie)

The inaugural Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival took place from Feb. 6-8. The festival provided a forum for artists and directors who work at the intersection of faith, family and contemporary filmmaking. The mission statement of the festival, “dedicated to empowering the creative spirit, serving with heart and celebrating all” shone through in the winning films at the festival.

The festival showcased films rooted in family and faith while also giving a voice to a breadth of ideas and diversity of backgrounds. Among the winning films were Bending in the Wind (Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film (USA)), Nasser Goes to Space (Grand Jury Prize For Best Short Film (International)) and Be the Light (Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film (USA/International)). The festival screened over 60 films at 11 different locations at Baylor University, local churches and the Waco Hippodrome Theatre.

The Grand Jury Prize for Best Student Film went to student-director Nicole Thompson for her film Blackbird.

Blackbird is really important to me because it honors my grandmother,” Thompson said. “I wanted to make a film that showcases the everyday people … that also have a dream,” Thompson continued.

Filmmakers like Thompson were drawn to the festival for its unique emphasis on faith and family values. These values were reflected in the “Soul Sessions” that followed the screenings. The “Soul Sessions” gave audience members a chance to discuss the themes of faith and spirituality in the films. Topics discussed during these sessions included overcoming fear and doubt and the concept of eternal love.

Dr. Tyrha Lindsey-Warren, the festival’s founder, said she was elated by the response from the filmmakers as well as Waco locals. (Side note: Act Locally Waco will be interviewing Dr. Lindsey-Warren on the Act Locally Waco podcast about the festival and her work in Waco – stay tuned!)

2020 Champions Award Recipients for the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival (l to r)- Sam Sorbo, Gina Neely, and Kevin Sorbo (a.k.a. “Mr. Hercules”)

The festival also honored its “Champion Award” recipients. The Champion Award recognizes artists and organizations who exemplify innovative, against-the-grain thinking in the film, television, performing arts and entertainment industries. Recipients of the Champion Award included President of TFNB Bank, David Littlewood, celebrity chef and best-selling author, Gina Neely, film producer, radio host, author and model, Sam Sorbo and her husband, actor and director, Kevin Sorbo,


The second annual Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival will take place on Feb. 4-6, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.wacofamilyandfaithfilmfestival.com/. See you there!


Andie Chilson is a senior at Baylor University studying journalism and creative writing. She is originally from Houston, but Waco has quickly come to feel like a second home to her. Andie enjoys writing and digital content creation as a way to express her creativity and help people spread their message. In her free time, you can find her reading anything by Brené Brown, doing yoga or exploring downtown Waco. Andie is so excited to be working as part of the Act Locally Waco team this semester!

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 ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

254 MUSIC VIDEO RACE

Press Release – (January 28, 2020)  An unprecedented music and movie collaboration launches in Central Texas, Keep Waco Loud and the Deep in the Heart Film Festival present: the 254 Music Video Race. 

“We have such vibrant music and filmmaking scenes in Waco – we can’t wait for them to come together,” says Samuel Thomas, Deep in the Heart Festival Artistic Director.

Central Texas bands, musicians and musical acts (all genres, rap to rock, hip hop to country and everything in-between) are encouraged to meet up and team up with area filmmakers to create new music videos in the 254 Music Video Race.

Teams will have two weeks to plan, produce and edit new music videos.  Race officials will select three music videos to screen at the ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’ World Premiere on February 22nd at the Waco Hippodrome. All participating artists are encouraged to attend, view the finalists and help select the winner. An audience vote will choose a winner who will receive cash prizes, a featured spot on the Keep Waco Loud podcast, and their video will be an official selection in the Deep in the Heart Film Festival in August.

Musical artists and filmmakers can start their videos on February 1 or find your collaborators at our Filmmaker/Musician meet-and-greet, 7:00 pm, February 3rd at Klassy Glass. To register a team for the race (FREE ENTRY!), read all the rules and requirements at our website, www.DeepInTheHeartFF.com  

About the ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’ Premiere

The world premiere of ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’ will showcase the top three videos of the 254 Music Video Race. The documentary is a story of music, money and murder – birthed in the Bronx, but raised here in Waco. The film sheds light on this thriving music scene in Central Texas, interviewing the foundational artists in Waco, exploring the journey of the genre, and meeting the creators whose musical passion drives their lives. 

It’s an evening celebrating Hip Hop in Waco with live music from Verbal Seed, DQ Hampton, Chyrie, Scratch Master T and Donna C, breakdance performances from Battle Grounds Crew, live street art from Skcoobaveli.  

For premiere tickets, check out the Hippodrome website, www.WacoHippodromeTheatre.com