Waco arts organizations learned this month that they’ve been dealt a flush hand in Texas Commission for the Arts program grants: All five organizations applying for project grants had their requests fulfilled.

The Art Center of Waco, the Waco Symphony Orchestra, Cultural Arts of Waco, Waco Civic Theatre and Creative Waco have received grants of $3,000 or less for the TCA’s 2017-18 fiscal year. Most will fund projects that will bring artists to Waco or take Waco artists to area schools.

The news came some six months after Waco’s new Downtown Waco Cultural District received word that TCA budget cutbacks for 2017-18 would mean no new money for the state’s cultural arts districts.

Four of the groups winning TCA money also received funds from the city- and county-funded Arts Match Program that Creative Waco administers. Creative Waco, a nonprofit organization that encourages growth of the arts and artists in Waco, also wrote several recommendations to accompany grant applications, and executive director Fiona Bond said the local stamp of approval on those projects likely played a part in securing state approval.

“It’s a very important signal to the state,” Bond said. “The local grant means (a project) is important to the community.”

For the Art Center of Waco, its approved $2,500 TCA program grant will help fund its 24-foot-long mobile exhibit trailer, which will bring art and a gallery experience to area elementary schools. Over the years, constrained school district budgets and school schedules have meant fewer schools organizing student field trips to the Waco arts center, director Meg Gilbert said.

“Part of what we have seen in field trips is that teachers are stressed and there’s a lot of time tied up in travel,” Gilbert said.

In response, the center will try bringing art to elementary schools, in a collaboration between the center, McLennan Community College, Baylor University and Tarleton State University. Artists and art professionals will travel to schools and talk with students about art, then students will see the approximately three dozen small artworks contained on the trailer.

Where past art education trips to schools usually involved students creating art, the mobile exhibit trailer will offer a taste of an art gallery visit, Gilbert said. The trailer made its public debut at the Waco Cultural Arts Fest last weekend and will make its first school visit this week at West Avenue Elementary School, she said.

A $3,000 TCA grant will enable the Waco Civic Theatre to do a similar program, one that will bring local actors and theater professionals to area schools for workshops and theater education.

TCA funding provided the Waco Symphony Association $2,500 toward the fee for its guest artist of its season-opening concert, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gold medalist Yekwon Sunwoo. Information on the grant awarded the Cultural Arts of Waco was not available Friday, but past TCA awards have helped bring performers and artists to Waco for the annual Waco Cultural Arts Fest.

Creative Waco received a $2,500 TCA grant to create artist-designed information kiosks for downtown Waco, a project supported by the city, the Convention Center and Visitors Bureau and City Center Waco. The kiosks would feature hand-drawn and -painted maps to orient visitors and residents to downtown sites, shops and restaurants. Those maps would be updated on a regular basis, with the first kiosks anticipated by early 2018, Bond said.

Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

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