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Creative Waco has $120,000 in seed money to help the Waco arts scene bloom, and it’s looking for takers.

The arts agency will start taking applications this week from nonprofit organizations for matching grants of $2,500 to $10,000 to underwrite arts projects, such as festivals, concerts or public art. The city of Waco has contributed $100,000 to Creative Waco for the grant program, and McLennan County has contributed $20,000.

The Arts Match Program, or AMP, will officially kick off Thursday in tandem with the Deep in the Heart Film Festival. The first round of applications will be due March 15, and winners will be chosen within four weeks. Applications will be available online as of Thursday at

Creative Waco executive director Fiona Bond said the agency is looking for projects that will establish Waco as a welcoming place for artists and enhance Greater Waco’s quality of life. In addition, she hopes to strengthen local arts nonprofit groups.

“It will really help grow a a cohort of arts leaders in this community who are willing to do high-impact, innovative things in the community,” Bond said.

She said an example of a high-impact event would be the Waco Symphony Orchestra bringing renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to Waco in October 2015, while the Deep in the Heart Film Festival is an example of an innovative program.

The funding is short-term and is not intended to fund existing programs or bail out financially troubled organizations. A Creative Waco panel will score each project, looking at its quality and at how well it meets the criteria of the program. Future deadlines will be June 1, Sept. 1 and Dec. 1.

Bond made a presentation to Waco City Council’s budget and audit committee Tuesday. Councilman Jim Holmes said he likes the idea of “vetting” and scoring applications and likes that nonprofit groups have to have “skin in the game” through their matching funds.

The council last year designated Creative Waco as its official “local arts agency” and supported the agency’s successful bid to get a state designation of downtown Waco as a “cultural district.”

That could open doors for state arts funding but only if the Texas Legislature wants to continue money for the cultural district program, Bond said Tuesday. She said she hoped the Legislature would renew a $5 million appropriation for the program, but so far the Senate’s budget does not include any money for it.

“For our community, it would be really unfortunate if just as we become a cultural district, that funding no longer exists,” Bond said.

Waco could get access to money the state has already put in the program, but it would be limited, she said.

In the meantime, Bond is inviting local arts nonprofit groups interested in the AMP program to join her for an informal discussion at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits, 508 Austin Ave.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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