This year’s Table Toppers fundraiser for the Art Center of Waco did not quite have the impact of last year’s, when the announcement of the center’s new downtown Waco location and building was made, but it had considerable news of its own.
With almost half of the $2.5 million needed for the downtown center renovation secured and a board-approved design in hand, Art Center supporters are starting the public campaign, “Building a Legacy,” to finish the job.
Art Center board member Lisa Monroe told the about 300 people attending Thursday’s Table Toppers lunch at McLane Stadium’s Baylor Club that private donors, led by Alyce, Steve and Stephanie Beard, have pledged $919,000 toward the purchase and renovation of the building and two neighboring houses.
Monroe headed the ad hoc group of Art Center board members and staffers that found the single-story brick building at 701 S. Eighth St., and many in that group are now leading the fundraising efforts for building renovation.
Structural problems with the Art Center of Waco’s longtime home, the former William Cameron summer home at McLennan Community College, forced its evacuation in October 2017. Art Center officials chose at that time to find a downtown location for its new home.
Since announcing the new location at last year’s Table Toppers, the center has acquired two adjacent properties. A house behind the center and facing South Ninth Street will be used as temporary office space until the main center is completed. A recently acquired property on the center’s south side will allow expansion of its Sculpture Garden, whose works will be relocated from their former spot on the MCC grounds.
“We have a campus now,” Monroe said with a smile on her face.
Those attending Thursday’s event saw the architectural designs and floor plan for the renovated center created by Waco architectural firm RBDR PLLC, provided free to the center. RBDR architect Grant Dudley also is an Art Center board member and part of the location search and capital campaign committee.
Sketches of the building’s proposed exterior have Robert Wilson’s towering “Waco Door” sculpture in front with a decorative facade of dark rust-brown metal slats, echoing the Door, halfway across the building front.
Its floor plan shows a main gallery running through the center, two smaller galleries and offices on the building’s south side, classrooms and a kitchen area on the north side and a large multipurpose room in the building’s rear.
The renovated building also will have a heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that will qualify the center to bring in touring national and regional art exhibits, board Vice President Lance Magid said.
The center’s main gallery will be named for the Beard family, although Alyce Beard said the gallery’s final name has not been decided yet. The Sculpture Garden will carry the name of Mrs. Spencer (Margaret) Brown while the center’s smaller galleries will recognize the families of Cullen and Mickey Smith, the latter a longtime Waco arts advocate and supporter of the Art Center and its work, and Ray and Ellen Deaver.
Beard, a three-time Art Center board member, said she first became involved with the center in its founding years in the 1970s, when it was located downtown. At the time, she was a young art teacher at South Junior High School, now West Campus Lofts and located a mere block away from the center’s new location.
Beard said art is fundamental to human experience and expression, and she is pleased that over the years Waco has supported the Art Center as a focal point for community arts education.
“I hope we are surpassed in the lead, but I’m proud and honored to be the lead donor,” she said.
Board President Jill Michaels said the public stage of the fundraising campaign will move to a wider net of community contacts and use social media to spread the word.
Magid said the new art center, with an anticipated opening sometime next year, will serve as a cultural magnet for the city.
“This is a thing to keep Waco young people home for fine art,” he said.