Street Art in Waco: By the People, For the People

(The current exhibit at local art and culture hot spot Cultivate 712 is called “Writing on the Wall.”  It features the street art of world-renowned, anonymous street artist “Banksy,” specifically his/her installation “Haight Street Rat: This is where I draw the line” in addition to artwork by Waco and Central Texas artists.  Bringing the work of this famous/infamous street artist to town made us wonder about the state of street art in Waco.  Steve Veracruz of the Central Texas Artist Collective (CTAC) agreed to dig into it a little for us.  Thanks for writing, Steve! The “Writing on the Wall” exhibit is free and open to the public during Cultivate 7Twelve’s open hours until Saturday Nov. 17.) – ALW)

By Steve Veracruz

Street art is not new to Waco.  Sometimes it seems like street art and graffiti styles fill up any place resembling wall space. There is a fine line between calling graffiti “street art” and actual works of art. It all depends where you draw the line I suppose.

There really are no boundaries when it comes to street art because the actual environment becomes the canvas. Street art can be about the statement…a street artist has something to say and it will be revealed on a grand scale, with a touch of controversy perhaps.  But, that is not always the case. It may also be about reflecting a particular area with some visual form of identity.

One particularly talented individual in Waco with experience in street art goes by the name Skcoobaveli. He has created outstanding works of art everywhere, from bridges to buildings. He is also one of Waco’s famed tattooists, as well as the winner to one of CTAC’s special art exhibitions!

Skcoobaveli acknowledges the many street and graffiti artists before him.  Building on that, he hopes to create a brand known for its tasteful qualities. Businesses have reached out to him to help encourage traffic through the attraction of his art.

Skcoobaveli explains that areas with the less attractive graffiti and even vulgarity are mere places for practice. They are places where adolescent behavior grows into work to be shared, for the people.  He also noted that sometimes a wall becomes a space for something amazing to be created…a legacy gets left behind.

“It feeds the soul to be remembered,” says Skcoobaveli. “Keeps the Ghost alive. And without ghost to chase, Scooby Doo wouldn’t have a job.  Feed the memory. Be a ghost chaser. Spread the stories. RIP Benjamin Franklin, may I always have you in my pockets, close by.”

Sal Valesco is another former street artist in Waco. He has seen and worked with some Waco’s street art pioneers. His take on the movement is to recognize its value. It truly exercises the right of free speech, given it is done properly.

“To me the street art in a city always gives me a reading,” explains Sal, “like a pulse of what’s happening in that city.” Sal understands the necessary information that street art can reveal. It can promote style, politics, and more importantly, culture.

Since his street art days, Sal has taken his skills to the next level and created his own company, Epitome.  Through Epitome he provides advertising and marketing for many of the sprouting local businesses waking up in Waco. His once hidden designs developed while decorating the street under the cover of night, now help businesses explain and promote their identity.

Sal likes a quote from soccer star, Pele, “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” “Those words couldn’t be more true,” says Sal. I’m looking forward to embarking on this new venture and to putting our best foot forward. Follow @epitome_tx to keep up with our new projects and to get more info.” (#epitome)

Any form of art continues to generate, encourage, influence, and plant the seeds for so much more we have not yet seen. I feel absolutely honored to be able to work with so much of Waco’s talent so far. The best quote to take us out with is, “We have not seen anything yet!”

Steve Veracruz is Co-founder and communicator for Central Texas Artist Collective. He is a multimedia artist and strong advocate for collaborative success. He likes to say, “No big accomplishments are created alone, and our city is on the way.”  For more information about the Central Texas Artist Collective (CTAC) email .

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 for more information.


Sustainable Waco: Growing Green

By Melissa Mullins

Anyone who’s been around Waco for very long has no doubt noticed the remarkable growth and development occurring, with everything from home construction to hotel revenue on the rise.  All the new construction I see around me daily got me to wondering:  how do cities around Texas and around the country encourage “green” infrastructure and what’s planned for Waco?

Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is loosely defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability to meet future needs.  It is often discussed in terms of the ubiquitous “three-legged stool” metaphor with strong economic, environmental and social legs (people, planet, profit) all required if you don’t want a wobbly stool.  Since my background is in biology (and not economics or social sciences), I wonder most about interactions of the natural and the built environment when communities grow.

In my neighborhood and around Texas

So, for instance, as the city block (pictured) that I pass by daily was converted from older houses to a new shopping center this year, what changes will take place in terms of water movement, soil, and plants?  How can we capitalize on the new structures that are in place (such as rooftops)?  Waco has lots of great outdoor green spaces- but are there things we can do to promote linkages and greenbelts in our community?  I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions, but I do think we all should be a part of the conversation.  And it’s a conversation that is not unique to Waco.  About 85% of Texans currently live in urban areas, and the population of Texas’ cities is expected to double in the next 40 years, with metropolitan counties (including ours) accounting for nearly all the growth that will occur in the state.

Waco City Plan

There is certainly no shortage of information on the internet about “greening cities” around the country and around the world.  Closer to home, The Waco City Council adopted the City Plan, Waco Comprehensive Plan 2040 a couple of years ago, and this plan discusses specifics for Waco related to economic development, growth management, transportation, community livability and the environment.  In addition to outlining broad goals and objectives for Waco, specific implementation strategies are identified related to sustainable growth.  For instance, City Ordinances could be adopted such as a parkland ordinance that would require developers to contribute to construction of parks, and creek beds could be developed as linear parks that could link neighborhoods to the Brazos River Corridor.  There are recommendations to adopt stormwater utility fees that would encourage green infrastructure.  The section of the plan on the Environment contains implementation strategies aimed at reducing impervious cover, conserving water, and encouraging sustainable planting practices using native plants.  Some of the most exciting implementation strategies are related to energy and encourage considering the adoption of a green building code, promoting the use of solar power in residential, commercial, and industrial development, and taking specific actions to decrease the urban heat island effect.

What can I do?

A city plan is only a starting point of course, and only as good as the action that comes from it.  There are other entities besides government (such as non-profits) that play an integral part in advocating for all three legs of sustainable growth in Waco and surrounding communities.  How can interested citizens be involved?  We are often given lists of individual actions we can take that are sustainable (recycling, taking our own bags to the grocery store, etc.) and while these are all great ideas, our real strength and ability to promote sustainability is as a community, which is more than a loose affiliation of individuals doing their own “green” thing.  So maybe for me that means forcing myself to go to public meetings (though I hate them) where issues I care about are on the agenda.  What does it mean for you?  Some places to look for inspiration might include:  Keep Waco Beautiful, the Waco Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board, Sustainable Waco Facebook group, Heart of Texas Master Naturalists, McLennan County Master Gardeners – feel free to share others you know about in the comments section!

Melissa Mullins coordinates water education and outreach at Baylor’s Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research.  She’s lived in various neighborhoods in Waco and McLennan Co over the last 25 years, loves spending time outside, and is a library patron.

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 for more information.



Trails and Trials: IRONMAN® 70.3® Waco training camp

(This post is a part of a regular series “Trails & Trials,” a monthly adventure series inspiring others to experience the physical, mental, and social benefits of cycling, running or swimming in Central Texas. For more posts in this series, click here: Trails and Trials.  – ALW)

By Natasha van der Merwe

Last weekend we had the pleasure of hosting over 60 athletes in Waco. They came in from cities all across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, for the inaugural Bicycle World IRONMAN® 70.3® Waco training camp.

What exactly does a Triathlon training camp entail?

This camp was specifically targeted at helping athletes feel as prepared as possible for the inaugural IRONMAN® 70.3® Waco Triathlon on October 28th.

The first goal was to familiarize the athletes with the race course. The second goal was to make sure every athlete left with as much information on how to execute all the small but important elements that would make their race day a success. We covered topics such as day-to-day nutrition, race day nutrition, race day pacing, carb-loading, taper week protocols, cycling equipment, and much more. All elements are just as important as the other.

Outside of these two goals for the athletes, an added bonus is that a triathlon community was built.

There is nothing like getting a group of like minded, and enthusiastic people in the same room conversing about their favorite subject – triathlon. The conversation flowed and many new friends were made.

The camp started on Saturday mid-morning, where we took athletes through a transition clinic. The quickest way to transition from the 1.2 mile swim to the 56 mile bike ride, and from the bike ride to the 13.1 mile run.

Transition times are important, as they add to one’s overall time. We showed the athletes a few tips and tricks to make the process as time efficient as possible.

Athletes were advised as to what a pre-workout and race warm up routine should look like. This included activation exercises, specifically targeted at getting muscles ready for the upcoming activities, as well as running specific drills focused on building running efficiency and making sure we have the body feeling loose and ready for the workout session or race ahead.

Following our activation exercises and warm up we sent the athletes off to run part of the IRONMAN® 70.3® Waco run course, which ran them on a beautiful and mostly shaded path along the Brazos River.

Thanks to the volunteers from the Waco Triathlon Club for all their assistance. They   ensured that the campers had a great impression of Waco. We had water stops along the route for them to stop, chat and take in the views before heading back.

Next on the agenda was a group swim at the beautiful Waco Family YMCA pool. Our group was so large that we had to split them in two groups. Aaron Shapley, a Bicycle World Racing Team athlete and an ex collegiate swimmer, gave an informational session in the bleachers.  I then took a group through their paces of a triathlon specific workout that can be done in the pool.

After a short break, all the athletes got together at Downtown 301, which is located right behind the new Bicycle World store. Athletes got to mingle with others over a steak and sweet potato dinner, which we recommend prior to big races due to its nutrient density, which is perfect in preparing the body for a big event.

Bicycle World’s CEO and President, Todd Behringer, and local triathlete Erik Romanov took us through the bike and run courses so that athletes got familiar with the course before riding and running it the following day.  I then got the opportunity to speak on several topics and details that would help them make their race day as enjoyable as possible.

Sunday morning, while the athletes were enjoying breakfast, our volunteers setup course signage and aid stations on the bike and run course.  When athletes arrived in the morning, they setup their transition in the IRONMAN® 70.3® Waco transition area. We then set athletes off in various pace groups led by the Waco triathlon community and Bicycle World Racing team. All campers got to ride the entire 56 mile bike course which is described on the Ironman website as a single-loop course through the scenic Central Texas rural roads.

The day finished with running one loop of the challenging two loop run course that takes athletes along the Brazos River and into the hills of Cameron Park, and finishing on the suspension bridge which offers a picture perfect and memorable finish line.

After the ride and run, athletes, coaches, and volunteers all congregated under tents enjoying a well-deserved and delicious lunch from Luna Juice, while reminiscing about their big training weekend. One of our athletes, who was brand new to the sport of triathlon, finished the day in tears of joy. She exclaimed how proud she was of herself because never in a million years did she think that she was capable of doing a triathlon. It was her longest ride and run to date, and training for IRONMAN® 70.3® Waco was the big goal that kept her mind off recent heartbreak she had experienced in her life. Like many of us that enjoy the sport, training for a triathlon had given her day purpose, and she was proving to herself that she was strong enough to handle anything that came her way.

We all come to the sport of triathlon for one reason or another. Mine started out as simply needing a bigger purpose to workout and take care of myself, other than just to look or feel good.

Well, I got this and so much more…

  • It turned into an Enduring Passion.
  • It improved my overall quality of life.
  • It became a career that allows me to compete and help others on their journey through the sport.
  • It created new and long-lasting friendships within a close-knit community.
  • Lastly, training for a triathlon and race day brought about joy and living life to the fullest.

It is a great experience when crossing that finish line at the end of a race. Months and months of preparation are celebrated.

I personally cannot wait to see the many tears and exclamations of joy from nearly 3000 triathletes on that suspension bridge on October 28th.

Natasha van der Merwe is originally from South Africa. She is mom to a 19-month old girl, former professional tennis player and tennis instructor, and a professional triathlete representing Bicycle World and Waco Running Company.  She has multiple top 10 finishes in Ironman and 70.3 events around the world. She is Director of Team Programs for Bicycle World, Texas

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 for more information.