Popping in to a pop-up: How to enjoy new arts experiences

By Luann Jennings

During August 2017, Creative Waco is hosting a temporary “pop-up gallery,” Waco 52, at 712 Austin Avenue (two doors up from the Hippodrome).  Waco 52 had a blockbuster opening weekend, with around 1500 people stopping by between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon.

If you weren’t one of them, I hope it’s not because you feel uncomfortable going to an art gallery. Here are a few thoughts that might make a new arts experience easier, whether in a gallery, theatre, concert hall or elsewhere.

Photo: Austin Meek looks at “Sleep Painting: Bach,” by Travis Tarver, at the Waco 52 exhibition.

It’s okay to like some things better than others. We’re all constructed differently, and we all have different tastes and experiences. Our job as viewers, listeners, and audience members isn’t to judge how “good” the work of art is – instead, focus on your experience and what’s coming out of it. I’ve equally enjoyed Broadway plays and high school plays, not because they were the same in objective quality, but because each one provided me with a different and valuable experience.

You’ll get more out of any work of art if you take some time to process it. This is true whether you’re standing in front of a painting or contemplating something you read or listened to or saw in a theatre. What comes through strongly? What else is there that unfolds more slowly? What does the piece make you think of or remember? What do you feel? Does it make you want to take any sort of action? You don’t have to deeply consider every piece of art you run across; but if you make a habit of really thinking or talking about works that attract or move you, you will build the “muscle” of appreciation and will get more and more out of each arts experience.

Experiencing art is always more fun with a friend. One of the main reasons people report for not going to arts events is that they don’t have anyone to go with. If you have a partner who isn’t interested, which of your friends might be up for a new experience? Who could have a good conversation with you about it afterwards? What else could you do that would enrich the experience even more? Dinner beforehand or a drink in a club with live music afterward?

Learning about an art form will help you understand it. When I met my husband Chuck, a jazz guitarist, I knew nothing about jazz. Sometimes when I went with him to a jazz club it sounded to me like each musician was playing a different song. But as I learned about the history of jazz, and what jazz musicians are doing as they improvise, I came to appreciate it. I don’t tune in to the jazz station when I get in the car, but I can listen to jazz today and enjoy it – and, more importantly, it’s caused me to hear all music differently.

Learning about artists will help you understand their work. Every artist is showing you the world as she sees it – and by looking through her eyes, you expand your own vision. If you like one piece an artist created, check out others. What ideas, colors, sounds, shapes, or images recur? What do the artist and others say about her work, and is that the same as what you see? What in the artist’s personal story is reflected in her work? What is it about this artist’s vision of the world that appeals to you or stretches you?

You won’t be the only “beginner” in the room. Come to a new arts experience with an adventurous spirit. There’s a reason why “play” is what we do with a musical instrument or in the theatre. It’s supposed to be fun! As you would in any social situation, watch what others do, and do the same thing. Ask questions. Artists love the curiosity of people who are new to what we do. If you’re not sure what’s available to you, do some research. Check Creative Waco’s Calendars page to find places to get more information. Also visit our Creative Directory and click through to the websites of organizations and artists that sound interesting. Many have email lists you can join or Facebook pages you can follow. Don’t assume that you can’t afford the arts. Many events are free, and some organizations have free or discounted admission on particular days, or for volunteers.

If you’d like to learn more about the arts, I’ll be teaching a class this fall on “The Arts in Our Community” through Baylor’s Continuing Education program. We’ll spend four class sessions learning about visual art, music, dance, and theatre, and we’ll get to hear from artists in those areas about what they do. We’ll visit a museum and attend a play and concert together, and we’ll have plenty of time to talk about them afterward.

The Waco 52 Pop-Up Gallery will also be holding some educational events. Follow Creative Waco on Facebook  to see announcements, or check the calendar on our website.

The gallery is open from 10am-6pm Monday through Saturday, and some evenings for special events, until September 2. In addition to the exhibition, we have a retail shop where you can purchase prints, postcards, jewelry, ceramics, CDs, books, and other products created by local artists. Stop by with your laptop or a book and work or relax with a Luna Juice, cup of tea or Pinewood Roasters coffee.

If you have any questions or suggestions, ask for a Creative Waco staff member while you’re at the gallery, or write us at info@creativewaco.org. We’d love to talk with you!

Luann Jennings is an arts educator and advocate who works with Creative Waco (our arts agency) and other local and national arts organizations. She worked as a theatre director in Atlanta for a dozen years before moving to New York City, where she enjoyed experiencing, learning about, and teaching others about all kinds of art forms. Chuck and Luann moved to Waco last summer, and they live at the Good Neighbor Settlement house in Sanger Heights.


Plenty to love about Leadership Plenty

By Holly Tate

 “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” – Warren G. Bennis

Like most worthwhile things in life, becoming a good leader requires hard work, not just good genes. The more time we spend learning about and developing the characteristics of leaders, the greater our capacity to lead and serve others. Becoming a leader in Waco is all about taking our citizenship to the next level by becoming thoughtful, creative problem-solvers and visionaries for our communities. The LeadershipPlenty® Institute-Waco is one of the most impactful learning experiences available in our community for those who are interested in their personal leadership development and understanding of the diversity and complexity of Waco.

This FREE six-month program offers individuals the opportunity to develop and enhance leadership skills to become better leaders to work more effectively within their respective organizations and the greater community. When I participated in the program in 2015-2016, I loved getting to meet people from all different walks of Waco life and hear their perspectives and passions about the challenges facing our neighborhoods and organizations. I learned very quickly that there were not always neat and tidy solutions to addressing these complex and ambiguous challenges—and that’s ok! Through relevant readings, case discussions, introspective exercises, engaging speakers and panelists, group discussion, and networking opportunities, we all gained a broader understanding of leadership best practices, organizational culture and dynamics, and gained a deeper appreciation of our vibrant and changing community. While the topics we discussed were extremely relevant to Waco, they also challenged the way we approach national and global issues because they gave us a skill set that was so much bigger and more impactful than just a localized approach.

My friend, and fellow LeadershipPlenty graduate, Megan Pike really enjoyed and appreciated the module on Communicating for Change, which taught us about effective press releases and engaging the media. This was a really practical session that has helped her in her professional work as she consider rolling out new programs and how to best engage the media regarding these programs. But it was the final session, Facing the Challenge of Racism and Race Relations

That was most profound for her. “Watching a portion of RACE: The Power of an Illusion has totally rocked my world to the point of sending me on a pilgrimage to better understand our nation’s history around civil rights and race relations. I have been able to share this video series with a number of people with the hopes of spreading awareness and inspiring people towards acts of conciliation around race relations.”

When I think back on my LeadershipPlenty experience, I think of all of the ways that it has helped encourage me to use my skills and talents to engage with my community in new and creative ways. Being a part of LP has also connected me with a network of peers and mentors representing both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, as well as community and school volunteers, retired individuals, people who are new to our community who are all passionate about our city, it’s capacity for awesomeness, and the active role each of us plays in making Waco wonderful for years to come.

If this sounds like something you’d like to experience for yourself, The LeadershipPlenty® Institute-Waco is now accepting applications for it’s 2017-2018 cohort! Apply by Tuesday, August 15th to be a part of this unique (& FREE!) opportunity

Visit www.todaysactiontomorrowsleaders.org  to learn more. Questions? Contact Catherine Haynes Bauer, Director of Leadership Development and Engagement at Waco Foundation, at cbauer@wacofoundation.org.

Holly Tate has called Waco home since 2009, and is a 2016 graduate of the LeadershipPlenty Institute-Waco. She is the Assistant Director for Missions at Baylor University—engaging faculty, staff, and students in opportunities to actively integrating their faith with service and learning all around the world. As a result of LP, she got connected to Act Locally Waco as a place to use her PR skills, and now volunteers behind the scenes for Act Locally Waco as our social media guru.  

 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.


















2 Girls and a Construction Crew!

By Dawn Broadwater

Working for Skillpoint Alliance as Waco Program Coordinator has been both a challenge and a life changing learning experience for me. In January 2017, Mallory Herridge, Waco Program Director and I faced some daunting tasks: We needed to find a qualified HVAC/Construction Core Instructor and then test and interview potential candidates.  Doing so helped us resolve some personal stereotypes that only men can be successful in the construction trades! We put together a diverse class of both men and women who are learning how to be HVAC Technicians. By diverse, I mean all ages, races and backgrounds.

Prior to stepping up to the challenge of coordinating our first HVAC/Core Construction class, the only ‘Tools of the Trade’ we were experts at purchasing were mascara, eye shadow and lipstick. Fast forward two months and we can shop for tools and specialty supplies with the best of them!  Our first class project was completed at Maker’s Edge, which is a makerspace and DIY prototyping studio here in Waco. The class made a chair and constructed a stand to hold an air conditioner unit. Two of our students were so dedicated to their success that they donated a small refrigerator and an air conditioning unit for extra learning.

Our Instructor, Mr. Ric Staton, has over 20 years’ experience in the HVAC field. He has owned and operated an HVAC business in Bastrop and taught HVAC at National Institute of Technology in Austin. He brings humor, integrity and a vast portfolio of knowledge to our program. Next on our HVAC Wish list is a ‘teaching trailer’ to hold our supplies and also serve as a workstation. Ideally the trailer should be covered and 8 x 8 through 8 x 24. The students would be able to practice hands on skills and apply what they learn in class. Another item on our class ‘wish list’ is a used A/C Condenser and Furnace Unit. To date, we are grateful that this wish has been fulfilled by Capstone Mechanical.

Skillpoint Alliance has been providing ‘Rapid Workforce Development’ training to participants in Austin since 1994. They expanded to Waco in 2015 with a few pilot classes and are now finding a permanent home here in Waco.  Their office and classrooms are located at the Barron’s Branch Apartments on Colcord. Skillpoint is attempting to help residents who have a desire to obtain a certification in such fields as HVAC/Core Construction, Medication Aide and Certified Nurse’s Aide. Mallory, who started as Director in 2016, states “although Skillpoint has only been in Waco a short time, this ‘Rapid Workforce’ model has already been identified as an integral piece of the puzzle when it comes to increasing the financial security of our citizens.”

The Skillpoint Alliance Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning training is an eight week specialty course that prepares participants for work as an HVAC Apprentice.  Students spend the first three weeks of the training completing the Construction Core program, which earns them certifications needed for entry-level positions in the construction trade.  The course then covers building codes, pipe fittings, diagnosing malfunctions and air duct systems.  It includes hands-on experience and instruction from dedicated instructors about aspects of HVAC systems for commercial, industrial and residential buildings. HVAC continues to be one of the fastest-growing service occupations due to heightened awareness of fuel conservation and environmental concerns.

Participants earn certifications for: NCCER Level One HVAC, NCCER Core Construction, EPA 608 Universal Certification, TDLR HVAC Technician Registration, OSHA 10 Certification and First Aid/CPR Certification.

Soft skills training, resume work shops and interview preparation also prepare our students to enter the work force. Engaging community partners to help collaborate with the needs of our students during their training has proved beneficial. As we move into September, our second HVAC class is getting ready to learn the ‘tools of the trade’!  Four of our students from our first HVAC class have secured employment in the HVAC/Maintenance Field. (And, yes, one of those newly employed is a woman.) We are excited for all of them and wish them the best! We currently have a few openings for our upcoming HVAC class that starts on Monday, September 11th. Potential students are encouraged to call our office ASAP to schedule assessment testing and interviews to be considered.

As we continue to expand and grow, we hope to serve many more Wacoans with an opportunity to learn and obtain certifications that offer a living wage, debt-free. We desire to collaborate with local HVAC and Construction companies to provide information and support for our students. ‘Lunch and Learn’ opportunities from local employers’ help our students learn about prospective companies that are hiring in the area.  For more information visit our Website @ www.skillpointalliance.org  or stop by and visit: 817 Colcord Avenue Waco, Texas. Our office phone: 254-732-0620

As the Skillpoint Alliance/Waco Program Coordinator, Dawn is responsible for coordinating and carrying out the activities for programming in the Waco region including: Classroom Management, Participant Coordination and Data Management. Prior to joining Skillpoint,Alliance, Dawn worked at Mission Waco as a Program Coordinator/Job Trainer/Job Developer for Waco Homeless population. She has previously worked as a Staff Respiratory Therapist, Respiratory Therapy Department Manager and Clinical Evaluator for Promise Hospital of Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona and Clinical/Didactic Instructor for a Respiratory Therapy Program at Apollo College in Phoenix, Arizona. Dawn moved to Waco with her husband, Tom in 2011.

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.

Teaching and learning at its best…Freedom School

By Mary Duty

The morning I read was just like the good old days of teaching.  Up at 5:30, out the door by 7, I was on my way to the guest reader at the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School at Baylor University. The school was held at Cesar Chavez Middle School (CCMS) . Dr. Lakia Scott invited me to read.  She worked with student reading programs at CCMS for a couple of years.  She began to develop a vision for a comprehensive summer reading program, and the Freedom School filled that bill.

CDF Freedom School is a program that develops literacy, civic engagement, and advocacy training.  Based on a similar program from the days of the Civil Rights Movement, these schools develop a curriculum that involves active reading and researching on a topic of interest and then helps students develop a response to their research.

Every year at Freedom School there is a day set aside for a social action project.  Last year it was studying, researching and conducting voter registration drives. This year’s theme for the National Day of Social Action was Child Hunger.  Students began to read about and research the problem of child hunger around the world, in the United States and locally.  Guest speakers came to talk to the scholars about child hunger.  From there students were encouraged to write speeches and letters and discuss ways to help solve the problem.  With the help of their teachers, they organized a March and a Rally in downtown Waco, complete with a trip to City Hall to visit with elected officials.  I could not wait to meet these young scholars.

I was brought to the gym.  The kids came in and gathered around.  And then magic filled that space.  The overly loud PA system began to play the Quincy Jones version of the Hallelujah Chorus. The kids didn’t mind.  They began to move around the room and sing and sway to the music.  Teachers joined in.  What a way to start the day!  This is how every day started at Freedom School.  They also engaged in a few minutes of “recognition” time where scholars and teachers call out people for good work or good deeds from the day before.  Guest Readers, joyful music and an attitude of gratitude set the mood.

As the music faded away the scholars sat in a semicircle and waited for me to read.  I read a book about the childhood of John Lewis.  They had just finished reading Lewis’s book, March.

After reading the book and answering questions the students went to their classrooms to read and work on writing and poster making.  The day I read was the day of the big march downtown.  We went from room to room with a member of the staff and what I saw was nothing short of spectacular.  Large colorful posters and banners littered the floor.  Speeches were on the tables, ready for their last revision.  The excitement about showing their work was evident in every room.  One teacher had worked with the students on their silent demonstration that showed the number of children that go hungry at night.  One young man told me of how the body that has not been fed reacts to school the next day.  Concentration suffers.  Kids don’t master new ideas.  Schoolwork suffers.  He was serious.  Every kid deserves a chance, he said.

At about 2 p.m. I drove to Heritage Square.  The kids marched.  They carried their posters.  They were blessed by Virgil, Waco’s praying man.  After about 30 minutes in the hot summer sun, they gathered in the shade of the arbors at Heritage Square.  Townspeople came.  Baylor students showed up.  Parents of kids were in the crowd.  The students made speeches and at the end they explained what their plates represented.  The young man that told me about how kid’s minds don’t work well when they are hungry finished his speech with a plea to the crowd.  “We all can help.”…..and looking out over the grownups he added “You could give money.”  He had grown to understand that if the programs that kids rely on for food are in the federal budget cuts, then we must look to our community…our civic organizations and churches to pick up the slack. Everyone smiled and nodded when he finished.  Then, row by row, in complete silence they filed by and dropped their empty plates in a trash can.  Symbolic of the number of kids that go without, they made a powerful statement with a peaceful and gentle voice.

As quickly as it began, it was over.  They gathered their water bottles scoured the area for trash and loaded on the bus to go back to Cesar Chavez.  I walked away transformed by what I witnessed.  In education jargon, it is called “integrated, thematic learning.”  This was that kind of learning at its best.   At the March and Rally, kids showed off their knowledge of science, history, and mathematics. They did it with reading, writing and speaking skills. And their work held deep meaning to them.  Their attitude toward their fellow man, their view of themselves and their place in the world will be forever changed for the better.

The CDF Freedom School at Baylor held a grand “Finale” program on their last day of school. The crowd was full of proud parents and friends. Dr. Marcus Nelson represented WISD.  It was a celebration of what was done at this year’s Freedom School. Scholars danced and sang.  They performed a play based on the story of the eagles that thought they were chickens.

At the close there was a final “recognition” time.  One student from each class came forward to read a note to their teacher. The first young man made it through about three lines of his prepared remarks and then the tears began to flow.  He was overcome with his feelings about what this Freedom School meant to him. Every child that followed let the tears flow. The recognitions were raw and real and cut to the heart of what good teaching is.  Finally, as they danced their final dance, this next generation of politicians, doctors, lawyers, teachers and citizens let it all go. Through their tears and laughter and promises, this first class of Freedom School graduates go forward to change the world. Thanks to this powerful Baylor/Waco ISD partnership, these scholars found their voice.

Mary Duty is a long time Waco educator and business owner. She is a chronic volunteer and seeker of truth and justice.  The Chair of Mclennan County Democratic Party, Mary is the mother of 5 incredible Wacoans and grandmother to 7 adorable grandkids. She is the wife and soulmate of Waco businessman, Roland Duty.