Tuesday, April 10, 2018

East Waco Mural Inspires Library Renovaton

Rachel Mower | Staff Writer
(from the Baylor Lariat)
August 24, 2016

When the East Waco Library closed its doors for renovations in 2015, much of the community was displeased with the inconvenience. Waco Library Director Essy Day believes it will be well worth the wait once the renovations are done this fall. “I believe in the libraries ability to transform and save lives,” Day said. “I truly just want to give the community the library they deserve.”

According to the Waco-McLennan County Website, the newly renovated East Waco Library will feature a 40% increase in space with a new quiet study room, space designated for teens, meeting room with increased seating, more computers available for public use, and much more.
“Libraries provide access to valuable information for people and what I love about them is that they are open to anyone, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Anyone can walk off the street and use the library,” Day said. “Once you graduate from college there’s no other place you can go to have access to all this information. Where else can you use a free computer all day with wifi? There’s no other place like it. We’re truly the last of the great democratic spaces.”

When asked about the design of the new library, Essy Day mentioned that the design was built around the large and colorful mural, which has become iconic and well loved by the Waco community.
“The community is just so invested in the mural. They wanted to work around the mural during the renovations so they took a lot of color from the mural and incorporated it into the new design,” Day said.

Dave Loewenstein, a professional muralist and mosaic artist, was the lead artist of the mural project back in 2013. The library itself used to be a grocery store, so the murals focus was on that transition.
“The place itself went from being a place for food for the body to a place being food for the mind,” Loewenstein said. “We really wanted to use that as a theme in the project.” Day believes that the new renovations will result in people staying longer at the library instead of just checking out books and leaving.

“We see that here at the central branch libraries, people come in with their laptops and stay all day. Sometimes we joke with them, ‘Do you have a job?’ but we really love that they want to spend their time here. People just love that its air conditioned and quiet… well sometimes quiet.” Day said.
Essy also believes that the East Waco Library will be a great study place for Baylor students, especially when finals roll around and the school library is packed.

“Sometimes kids come in shocked to the Waco libraries and say, ‘We didn’t know you had study rooms.’ We always think this is funny because of course we do. We have quiet study rooms and awesome databases to use. We also have a computer lab and nice printers to use,” Day said.
Day wants Baylor students to know that they are more than welcome to come and visit.
“We would love for Baylor students to come and use any of the four libraries in Waco,” Day said.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Called to Walls" Premiere in Lawrence, KS!

“Out of view of the high art world and the hip gallery scene comes this heartening story of unlikely partners in middle American working together to reexamine their histories, celebrate what makes their towns unique, and imagine their futures in the form of monumental community murals led by Lawrence artist Dave Loewenstein. Called to Walls is a thoughtful and uplifting film that not only leaves viewers reassessing their notions of art, but also with an itch to go out and do it themselves!”

Go to the "Called to Walls" website for more information

Friday, June 20, 2014

East Waco mural and the U.S. Deptartment of Arts and Culture

Here's a nice piece about the East Waco mural and its relationship to the new U.S. Department of Arts and Culture by Waco Tribune arts columnist David Smith.

“Almost every evil in America has an organized foe,” proclaimed Outlook Magazine in 1907. Articles in the issue covering child labor in the South and ways to protect the virtue of young women attending that year’s Jamestown Exposition testified to the fight. Alongside these, there was praise for an organization in Indiana that was contending for the belief that beauty is an essential part of life and that “art should not be for the few, any more than education or freedom is for the few.”

 We live in an organizational society and formal organization has been seen as the key to getting things done since the heady days of the Progressive movement. In his insightful book “The Search for Order, 1877-1920” about this organizational impulse, American historian Robert Wiebe explained that reformers at the turn of the 20th century “prized their organizations not merely as reflections of an ideal but as sources of everyday strength.” This impulse is understandable and perhaps timeless: Participants in any movement against mainstream inertia are liable to feel the deck is stacked against them and draw strength from any way to sense they’re not alone in their fight. Those who wish to make the arts a greater part of civic life are no different.

Earlier this spring, a nationwide coterie of artists and activists formed a new organization provocatively called the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. They conceive of art largely in terms of its ability to influence society in a particular direction. Despite the governmental-sounding label, they describe themselves as a “citizen-powered initiative to cultivate the public interest in art and culture and catalyze art and culture in the public interest.” They emphasize that active participation in the arts by the public as a means to greater civic engagement (a notion borne out by a National Endowment for the Arts study several years ago). Moreover, the ability of individuals to collaborate on a project — in their framework, something artistic — is “a key element of any resilient community.”

Kansas-based artist Dave Loewenstein, who came to Waco last year to help create the East Waco mural on Elm Street, is one of the organization’s first “cultural agents.” Their mission is to visit cities and host “vibrant, arts-infused gatherings” that draw a diverse cross-section of a community. They then discuss how the arts could transform that community and determine ways of reaching such a point together. We stayed in touch after his time here and last week he explained to me that the USDAC also serves artists by helping those who live and work away from traditional centers of the arts and culture to feel more connected to other artists and larger reservoirs of creative energy.

When Loewenstein talks about cultivating greater energy for the arts within a community, he isn’t simply referring to whether “an art program or cultural festival is good entertainment and benefits economic development.” These cultural agents want to create art projects that “actively engage citizens in the shaping, telling and sharing of their own unfolding stories.”

He says the mural he created here in Waco with the help of scores of local volunteers hints at how effective this enterprise can be, but at this stage it remains “a rare example.” There remain “many neighborhoods across the country that lack access to these kinds of opportunities,” he admits. The East Waco mural is indeed a striking visual piece. It’s even more impressive when you know the story behind its creation and how it reflects the ideals that made it possible.

David A. Smith, a Baylor University senior lecturer in history and Waco Symphony Association board member, can be reached at davidasmith.net.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The 25 Most Amazing Community Arts Projects

The Mid-America Mural Project made this impressive list of projects.

Here's a quote from the introduction to their choices for the top 25 Community Arts Projects -

"For social workers, being involved in a community art project can be among the most rewarding and dynamic experiences. Primarily focused on engaging a community or a group of people, community arts projects involve a variety of media and often function to facilitate a dialogue within a group. Many of these projects are created and envisioned with the help of professional artists. Some of the community arts projects included in this list offer children and adults an opportunity to create art and build self-esteem, some are a means to revitalize disenfranchised communities, and some simply offer people a place to express themselves through a visual means. The following community arts projects were chosen for their ingenuity, their resourcefulness, and their ability to fully engage and inspire their communities."

click on the photo to see all 25 projects

Monday, March 31, 2014

Apprentice Catherine Hart writes about her experience in Waco, Texas

"In the Spring of 2013, I had the privilege of being selected to apprentice with two of the most talented community based mural artists working today.  Lead artist, Dave Loewenstein and assistant artist, Ashley Laird, took me under their wings and brought me through a two month process that would forever change the way I perceive community, the creative process, and the course of my life as an artist."

Read the rest of Catherine's photo essay "My life changed in Waco, TX" here.