Education Solid Gold Neighbor
by Holly Burchett, Director, Community Relations
Since 1972, The Art Center of Waco has existed to serve as a creative force in the community for teaching, displaying, promoting, and preserving vital and diverse visual arts that enrich and inspire us all. Through a non-profit lens, they aim to enrich lives by deepening understanding, exploration, and appreciation through engagement with programs, exhibitions, collections and collaborations. As an art leader, The Art Center purposefully and intentionally works to build a community rich with art, culture, diversity, and education.
Originally housed at the Greater Waco Chamber, funds were raised in 1975 to renovate the historic William Cameron Summer House as a permanent facility for The Art Center. In 2017, the historical building was deemed uninhabitable and irreparable. Today, The Art Center hosts events and programs at rotating venues throughout Waco, with a goal to create an Art Center of Waco and Museum Complex located downtown.
Despite challenging times, the Art Center continues to serve as the foundation and artistic focus of Waco where all visitors can engage in the arts. Their staff works daily to curate and present innovative exhibitions, both at the Center’s temporary location on Speight Avenue and in their mobile gallery which inspires ideas, artistic contributions and endeavors, as well as conversations that are important and relevant to our world today.
Like many organizations pivoting during COVID-19, the Art Center has adapted to a virtual environment. “The Art Center continues to support the greater Waco community…[through] online art classes,” Heidi Lindquist, Executive Director, the Art Center of Waco, shared. “This…evolved into the long-term development of a new essential piece to our new art complex – a Virtual Education Classroom and Art Lab. The Virtual Classroom will offer adults, children, parents, educators, and fellow artists opportunities to attend live workshops, classes, events, and programs virtually and in-person simultaneously.”
She also explained experiences this year have created a stronger drive to curate immersive opportunities online to reach the community with art. These efforts culminated in virtual online classes in digital photography and drawing, both of which will be offered again in 2021. The Art Center also partnered with local museums and nonprofit organizations, leveraging mutual resources to broaden awareness and promote visitation and public appreciation of our city’s preservation and education partners. The most recent collaboration with the Historic Waco Foundation, features a local art exhibition alongside outdoor art activities that complement each other’s mission.
In the spirit of collaboration and community service, The Art Center recently developed an Education Committee, comprised of local artists, educators, and administrators to support and shape program curriculum and development. A recent product of this committee includes a partnership with Baylor University’s School of Education to build a STEAM-based after-school program to be piloted in the fall of 2021 in a Transformation Waco elementary school.
When asked why she continues to invest her time in this nonprofit, Heidi shared, “I am satisfied when I see joy, laughter, awe, and contentment in adult and children’s faces when they realize the relevance and accessibility of art through our classes, events, and grant-funded programs. Being an artist myself, I have a personal connection to art, knowing the potential art has to calm or stimulate emotional movement through practice or the critical stimulation of learning about global societies and individuals through the study of art history. Studying art opens the door to just about any academic subject and can be a wonderful life-long compliment to anyone’s life.”