A modern dance and arts performance, an in-school theater education initiative and a 100-foot mural in South Waco recently received funding from a local arts support program aimed at encouraging new and innovative projects.

Creative Waco’s Arts Match Program, funded by $120,000 from the City of Waco and McLennan County, has awarded $13,000 to projects backed by three arts organizations. AMP previously gave $10,000 to the first Deep in The Heart Film Festival, held at the Waco Hippodrome in February.

The local funding comes at a time when state and federal arts financial support is threatened. President Donald Trump has called for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, although both organizations had their funding continued in the budget extension recently passed by Congress.

The new Downtown Waco Cultural District, formally approved only eight months ago, saw the Texas House and Texas Senate cut the monies proposed for cultural district use by the Texas Commission on the Arts in their state budget proposals, and sizable cuts in overall funding for the arts commission.

The AMP grants will prove important, not only in providing money during tight times for the arts, but as a signal for other arts grants’ consideration that Waco enjoys a measure of local backing for the arts.

“It will certainly make local art funding more of a differentiation for a community like Waco,” Creative Waco executive director Fiona Bond said. “When they know there’s local support, that’s a plus.”

AMP funds target “innovative and high-impact” projects, not an organization’s or group’s regular operating budget. Qualifying projects, which can be proposed by businesses or non-arts organizations that partner with arts organizations, must raise at least half their funds from other sources.

In addition, the Cooper and Waco Foundations provide support to grant winners in securing “AMP Angels” — access to arts coaches who provide advice, even vision for organization or project leaders.

“They’ll be helping art leaders figure out where they need to be going in their field and what’s being funded,” Bond said.

The three groups recently winning AMP grants are the modern Waco dance ensemble Out On A Limb Dance Company for its 10th year celebration, “Stimuli: An Evening to Indulge the Senses,” held Saturday night at Downtown 301.

Waco Cultural Arts Festival received a grant for its proposal of a 100-foot mural at a location near South 11th Street and Webster Avenue. The third goes to the Waco Civic Theatre, for interactive theater education provided to local elementary and middle schools without theater programs.

Waco Civic Theatre executive director Eric Shephard said the program, for which the theater is still looking for a collaborator, flips the dynamic in the organization’s educational outreach.

Rather than relying on school field trips to bring young audiences to productions such as “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “Jackie And Me,” the theater will send professionals to schools to lead activities that give kids first-hand experience in acting, writing and theater arts skills.

“Instead of kids coming to us, we’re going to take our programming to the schools,” Shephard said. “We want to demystify theater for kids who haven’t seen it before.”

AMP grants are made quarterly. Application information and eligibility guidelines are available at www.creativewaco.org/amp/.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

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