Practically Pikasso: Creating Wellness & Fostering Community

by Jenuine Poetess

tables and floorI recently purchased a couple of plain end tables to use in my new office. I got them for a great (read: cheap) price at a local discount home goods store but they lacked a certain…something. As I was looking at them, the thought occurred to me, “These would look awesome with mosaic tops.” My second thought was how daunting it might be to try to find all the supplies to accomplish my creative goal myself. Happily, my third thought was, “I wonder if I could take these to Practically Pikasso and mosaic them there?” So I called, and they said, “Sure, come on over!”

I was thrilled! For a mere $6.00 studio fee I began my project to turn these somewhat drab tables into something delightful.

shelves with dishesBefore I continue, let me rewind and share a little back story. Practically Pikasso is, “an eclectic art studio” located in the shopping plaza at the intersection of Waco Drive and New Road. I have been there a few times before to paint pottery—which is one of their main offerings: a grand array of blank, white, ceramics in so many shapes and sizes ready for color and design. Their selection ranges from practical dishware, to specialty holiday décor, to character figurines, and intricate sculptures. There is no need to have any prior art experience, the knowledgeable and patient staff at Practically Pikasso will provide all the instructions, recommendations, and guidance needed to create your masterpiece! There is a vibrant array of ceramic glazes from which to choose including textured/flecked, smooth, and glass glazes in a rainbow of hues.

My mosaic project was divided into two segments over two days. Step one was to select my materials and create my desired design. There was a wide selection of materials to choose from including ceramic tiles of various shapes and sizes, glass beads, stained glass pieces, glass tiles, and mirror pieces. Once I determined my design—which took some time on my part to make sure that all the materials I was using would go together, had the same thickness so my finished table tops would be smooth and flat, and fit my design—then I needed to secure all the pieces onto my table top which I did with regular white craft glue (which dries clear). I also needed to be sure I left little channels between all my pieces where the grout would go in the second half of my project. The staff on duty during my first phase was helpful and patient with all my questions; he gave me excellent direction and assistance.

tables with mosaicI was excited to find the stained glass pieces among my options for mosaic. I have a special fondness for glass art as my grandmother was a stained glass artist. I also love how the pieces were swirled with a bit of white which yielded a lovely ocean and sky feel to me. I selected iridescent blue glass tiles for the outer border and then alternated iridescent glass with streaked stained glass in concentric squares. I was definitely channeling a beach vibe! With that, phase one was complete and I took the tables home to dry overnight.

glass fusingIn addition to the pre-made ceramics to paint, Practically Pikasso also offers glass fusing, mosaic, and hand thrown pottery projects and classes. This unique art space is the perfect place to unwind after a stressful day, catch up with friends, enjoy a date night out, or relish some adult/child bonding time for parents, mentors, and relatives alike! No reservations are needed for individuals and small groups (2-4 people) but larger parties may want to call ahead to be sure there is enough space. Large groups may also reserve the special party space for after work art happy hours, birthdays, parties, showers, and other special occasions. Practically Pikasso hosts a number of group events such as Girl & Boy Scout troops, School art classes, Greek gatherings, Corporate Team Building/Staff Retreats and more—groups may reserve a spot on location or Practically Pikasso will come to you!

PlateI was able to complete phase 2 of my project the next day after work. I brought my tables back to finish them with grout. I was able to choose from white, black, or grey grout. I went with the white to bring out the bright blues and mimic an island beach look. While I was grouting, I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Marie and Russ. They hadn’t ever seen anyone bring in their own objects to mosaic so they were curious about my project. While I applied the grout across my project working it into every space and crevice, I asked Marie and Russ about how they came to own and run Practically Pikasso. Russ shared that as a medical practitioner he would often come to the studio to relax, unwind, and restore calm after particularly strenuous work days. He loved the atmosphere and ability to just sit down and begin working on a project. When the previous owner, Sam shared that she would be closing up shop, Russ began to consider the possibility of taking over the business. Both he and his niece shared a love for the place and didn’t want to risk losing such a treasure. After many conversations between Russ and Marie and Sam, they took the plunge and bought the business. They laughed as they shared the story with me—neither of them considered themselves artists or business owners both coming from medical professions. But they knew they wanted to preserve this space for the community and had the resources to do so.

Since they have taken over the business, they have added many shelves of ceramic selections to choose from as well as the other kinds of projects. Russ noted that one of the things he loves best is seeing people engage with each other,

“They come in and all the phones and devices stay put away. Here they talk together, laugh, share an experience with each other and in the end, have an art object they made to remember the occasion. I love seeing people slow down and reconnect here.”

Marie shared how after a long career in nursing, she loves the positive atmosphere and creating that happens. While she enjoyed the work she did as a nurse, she reflected that there are far fewer dangers and much more joy in this work adding, “and it really is relaxing—a kind of therapeutic or meditative activity.”

tables with groutThe exciting thing about mosaic work is the dramatic reveal. After all the grout has been filled my pieces looked quite the mess. Basically as though I had just smeared frosting all over my tables. My favorite part came next: cleaning off the tiles and smoothing the grout to reveal the sparkling finished project!

Pikasso logoPractically Pikasso is the only art space of its kind here in Waco and offers a much wider selection of items than many other studios in cities around Central Texas. Whether you’re looking for a fresh option to get together with friends, or you need a creative place to refresh on your own, check out what Practically Pikasso has to offer. They have a selection of Valentine’s Day themed pieces available this month just for you!

Specials!

  • Summer Kamp Classes for ages 6 and older: consider sending your creative ones to Kamp at Practically Pikasso this summer! With 8 sessions to choose from with different themes, there is sure to be something for everyone.
  • Mosaic Mondays: enjoy 10% off all mosaic projects every Monday
  • Tuesday Fuseday: enjoy 10% off all glass fusing projects every Tuesday
  • Wednesday Ladies Night: ladies enjoy $2 off regular studio fees all Wednesday night
  • Open Weekends! not free during the weekday? Come hang out on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Enjoy the music, and create something wonderful!

Jenuine Poetess August 2014Jenuine 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: jenuinepoetess@gmail.com.

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.

 

What is Project Link? Can you tell me how it works again?

by Natalie James

 About Project Link

Three years ago, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, under the leadership of Executive Director Tom Stanton, began exploring ways to increase the rate of post-secondary success for Waco-area high school and college students. Over the course of many months, a group of about 40 individuals from local school districts and colleges (including school counselors, administrators, superintendents, and college presidents) assembled to discuss the challenges and barriers their students faced with college readiness, high school transition to college, and college success.

The result? After much collaboration and continued conversations, the group proposed to increase the number of counselors available to students at both the high school and college level so that students could receive consistent support for post-secondary success from ninth grade all the way through college or technical certification. This additional counseling would provide the “link” between success in high school and success in post-secondary studies.

In January 2015, The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation Board approved the grant proposal for Project Link in the amount of $1,020,000. Prosper Waco serves as Project Link’s “backbone organization.” They work with the multiple organizations involved in the grant to provide oversight of the project’s implementation, including collecting data, tracking outcomes, and reporting to the Rapoport Foundation.

Project Link officially launched this past fall to help students from La Vega High School, University High School, McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College. The project link team consists of one Project Link Coordinator, three Project Link High School Liaisons, and one Project Link Outreach Specialist. The Project Link Coordinator serves as the team’s lead and manages grant operations on a day-to-day basis. Three Project Link Liaisons, one at La Vega High School and two at University High School, work with students in the ninth through twelfth grade to prepare for college and workforce opportunities. The Project Link Coordinator and Outreach Specialist work together with the high school Liaisons to ensure a smooth transition to college and to provide continued support for Project Link students at the college level. Our team includes me as the Project Link Coordinator at McLennan Community College; Brandon Chappell, Project Link Outreach Specialist at Texas State Technical College; LaTishia Watson, Project Link Liaison at La Vega High School; and Marlayna Botello and Brittany Davis, Project Link Liaisons at University High School.

So what exactly do we do?

Project LinkThe goal of Project Link is to help students and their families chart a more assured and successful post-secondary journey. To accomplish this, Project Link participants develop personal relationships with professionals who provide intense one-on-one college, career, and financial advising and mentoring.

Really…who wouldn’t like having someone they can go to when they are unsure of what their next step is or when they need reassurance that they are on the right track? At both the high school and college level, Project Link provides academic and college support as well as personal and life coaching.

At the high schools, the Project Link team works to create a college-going culture by developing an environment that recognizes the value of higher education, by building awareness of post-secondary resources, and by nurturing student’s individual college and career aspirations. The participating high schools each have a dedicated space where the student can come to learn, explore, and begin to outline their own college and career path with the appropriate support and guidance to do so. Through one-on-one meetings and group sessions, the high school Liaisons help students with planning for optimum college and career readiness. They help students determine their career and college goals, think about enrichment and extracurricular engagement, figure out how to afford college and manage their money, navigate the application and registration process, prepare for SAT/ACT/TSI tests, and transition from their high school to the college of their choice. We encourage and support students as they explore and find a college that best meets their academic and career goals, and their personal needs – their true college match.

Project Link students participate in college and career nights, college application fairs, financial aid and scholarship application workshops, college tours, career days, and more. The students work on building their own educational resume by developing strong academic competencies and by participating in leadership and community service opportunities. College representatives from MCC, TSTC, and Baylor provide site visits for one-on-one advising for students who are considering attending one of these local post-secondary institutions.

Project Link is not designed to recruit specifically for MCC or TSTC, but statistically we know that many of our students for various reasons end up matriculating to one of those, so we provide additional support at those two schools.

At the college level, the Project Link Outreach Specialists provide one-on-one advising, life coaching, and other services. Students have the opportunity to participate in workshops that cover topics such as academic skills and support, careers, degrees, employability, life skills, personal wellness, computer and technology skills, and financial literacy and resources. Participants have additional opportunities to build their educational resume through community service, leadership, and internship opportunities. The goal of all of this is to help students develop the needed academic competencies, life skills, and strategies to attain their personal goals like earning their college degree, landing the job of their dreams, and achieving lifelong success.

Overall, Project Link helps to increase awareness, access and success for college readiness and retention. While building long lasting growth-oriented relationships with our students, the program allows each student to not only dream, but to make those dreams come true. At the end of the day, our program is not designed to do things for them, but instead to provide them with guidance and understanding about what steps they can make next in reaching their own dream, their own success. We can provide each of these students with all the knowledge, insight and information we have about pursuing a college or workforce degree that will land them the job of their dreams, but in the end, ultimately, we will not be the ones who will make these students successful. THEY WILL. Their persistence and hard work will be what takes them to their desired level of success. We are just serving as a beacon of light, showing them that with an advanced EDUCATION, comes great WORKFORCE and career opportunities that will lead them to be more productive members of our society and COMMUNITY. I would say that is a win, a victory, a SUCCESS for us all.


Natalie James 4Natalie James is the Coordinator for Project Link. A native of the Waco area, she has proudly worked in Higher Education for the past 10 years at McLennan Community College. She earned her AA degree from MCC, a BSAS degree from Tarleton State University through the MCC University Center, and M.Ed. from Angelo State University. She is also a proud wife and mother to two amazing daughters. If you have questions about Project Link, feel free to contact Natalie at njames@mclennan.edu or at 254-299-8517.