Bleeding Hearts

Did you change all your passwords?

…We did and it was about time. If you haven’t noticed, Waco Arts Initiative was off the radar this past spring semester as we took time to re-assess and re-vamp our programming.

Well we are back and have some exciting things in the works for summer involving a series of New York City artist talks launching in May. Talent involving comedians, song writers, storytellers and more will undergo an exclusive interview and each pose a question to our students in Waco. WAI students will answer each question through special art projects during WAI’s”Here and There Art Camp” occurring at the end of summer. This art camp will focus on literacy and storytelling to get children excited about learning, imagining and creating during the impending school year.

Fall Sneak Peak:
Programming this fall will consist of three main programs, providing after-school art classes and workshops in schools and neighborhoods and  at local community centers around Waco. To get everyone excited about summer and fall, I (Grace Ladd) will host a community dinner at WAI’s South Waco Site on May 5th to talk about summer and fall plans with the families of South Terrace. If you would like to attend this event and perhaps cook a dish, email me at or Program Coordinator, Maggie Emerson at

-Grace Ladd
(Founder & Director)


Week 4: A Halloween Celebration

This week, we took a small break from our very serious story writing schedule to turn our attention to more silly stories, of the Halloween kind. It was a fun week for the kids and now we are ready to get back to the grind with 3 more workshops! Not straying to far from what we learned in week 3, we took a look at classic Halloween songs from Thriller to The Addams Family and interpreted them visually. Then, on Halloween, we made puppets, ate candy, and made something for you!


These are our picture representations of Halloween song lyrics…

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These monsters stopped by to create their pictures!

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The Addams Family…a perfect visual story!

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The very proud artist!

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From the author of week 1′s “Michael Jackson” & “Michael Jackson 2″, a visual depiction of “Thriller.”

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Another “Thriller” illustration.

… and  our MONSTER puppets!

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After making our puppets, we created this special show for your enjoyment! We hope you like it!


Week 3: Visual Storytelling & “Circumstantial” Storytelling

For Week 3, we took a small break from writing to explore storytelling through the visual world.

On Tuesday & Wednesday, we created characters/puppets to use for a circumstantial storytelling circle. After creating our wacky puppets, we all gathered in a circle. On cards, there were 5 occasions at which people tell stories. When a card was flipped, you had to act as if your puppet/character is in that setting and change up the way you tell your story. The 5 settings/circumstances were:

  • Around a Campfire
  • At a Slumber Party
  • With a Few Friends
  • At Night with Your Family
  • At School/In Class


Due to rain and a drop in temperatures, we had low numbers this week, but that allowed each kid time to make even more puppets and work one on one with volunteers. On Thursday, our program coordinator, Maggie, served as the workshop leader for “Visual Storytelling.” We did two activities to showcase how visual art can be interpreted as story and how a story can inspire a piece of visual art.

First, we looked at 10 famous paintings. Each child picked one and then created a story to go with the painting. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” were the chosen works of art. Look below for the stories–we were very, very creative! During this activity, we were able to learn that each person who approaches a work of art understands and sees it differently. Sometimes people enjoy art and other times they do not. We also learned that everybody has different experiences that they have in mind when they see or read art.

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Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” inspired this story from Xavier:

” These are my mom’s flowers. My brother, Andre, gave them to my mom to put in her garden. My mom’s garden is so big that the sunflowers are taller than her–and she is tall. She loves sunflowers because she is happy and the bright yellow color reminds her to always be happy. Andrew knew that buying the flowers would make her very happy.”


Hokusai’s “The Great Wave” inspired this story from Joitroian:
(Spelling has been corrected; grammar is verbatim.)

“It was a cold day in Georgia when the people on the boat was so cold that the bottom of the boat was frozen it was a boy named Nik Nik was very nice that when you come to his house he’ll give you treats. It was another boy named Zane he was very nice too until he died in 1998 he had a lot of family until they died in 1999. Zane died on the boat because he was hanging off and his other family died because they got shot by this boy named Dee.”

I am not confident that Van Gogh and Hokusai were thinking these stories when they were inspired to create their works, but they certainly might have been thinking the exact same thing.

Edited-12For our second “Visual Storytelling” Activity, the kids were read “Bread and Jam for Frances” without being able to see the pictures. When the story was over, they had to draw a picture that was inspired by the story. In the story, Frances goes to school everyday on the bus and this young artist’s work was inspired by that part of the story.


The Storytelling unit has been such fun so far! Reading can be so daunting for kids, and through this sequence of workshops and weekly programming, we hope to change how they think of the written word. Writing is yet another art form, and it can inspire visual art; and vice versa. We hope to not only be an afternoon of fun, but a resource for a love of learning, teaching that art is everywhere and we can create good and beautiful things in our worlds.

Week 2: Creative Writing

Week 2-8099After the success of our first week, we were excited to return with the theme of “creative writing” to see what these pint-size geniuses would come up with next. They certainly did not disappoint.

This week’s activity centered around the idea of picking 5 random drawings and creating a story line that seamlessly included all of them. To begin, our students listened to the example story from our Program Coordinater who crafted a story, using 1. Pencil & Paper 2. A Bike 3. Magic 4. Rain 5. People, titled Magical Millicent: The Creative Writer.

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After listening to the story, the students were asked questions about the plot, character, settings, and sequence of events. Each right answer would win them one of their 5 drawings. They had to close their eyes and draw from a bag so that it really was random! (The students, of course, complained about how hard it was not to choose the 5 easiest things; but 2 minutes later, they were enjoying themselves and writing fantastic books!) When the first student won his/her 5 pictures, the rest were able to receive theirs. On to the creative process!

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The students were cautioned to take time to think about the story line before gluing down each picture in order. Some heeded this advice while others had a trickier time later on weaving each thing into a story line with the next. As a special reward for doing a wonderful job, the tiny authors were allowed to paint their pictures in their books upon completion of a seamless tale.

On Thursday, we welcomed Luke Mitchell, a Baylor Grad student and lover of fine literature and writing, as our workshop leader. Luke had previously worked with WAI and returned with a great passion and several activities that allowed our students to venture into character creation, description, and dialogue.

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Side story: A Waco Arts MVP has surfaced. One of our newest students was mentioned within 10 minutes of each workshop leader’s arrival as a special gem. All of our students are truly gems, but this one shines incredibly bright. He is thoughtful, intelligent, and a good listener (the latter is my favorite quality of his–tough for kids to be that!) This kid is great! We really cannot wait to see what he does not only this year, but in the future!

Thursdays are such a highlight during our week. The students love meeting new people, and I know that (if not on Thursdays, someday…) they will appreciate what our workshop leaders offer them. We are so grateful for Luke! He presented creative writing in a kid-friendly way and was able to talk about a lot in a little time. Thank you so much for being our workshop leader!

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To see more pictures, visit the full Week 2 album here:

Week 1: Storytelling 101

This past week, we launched for our 6th year of programming!

From our last blog post, you can tell that we struggled to decide what would be best for this year. But boy, oh boy did we figure it out.


On Monday, our program coordinator and her husband set out to tell everyone at South Terrace about our programming. In years past, we have focused on a group of students that were close to our apartment. This year, we wanted to expand to include more students from the housing complex. So, they took off on a ‘block walk,’ rolling up flyers to place by people’s door knobs and talking with those who were out. Seeing some familiar faces from last year certainly reignited the passion in our program coordinator. With the news out there, we returned the next day to see what would come of our efforts.

If you build it, they will come.

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Well, we built up anticipation through our flyers and we were not disappointed! Students we had never met before came first, with interested parents. Shortly after, our veteran WAI kids came to join! The same thing happened on Wednesday! On these days, we introduced this year’s curriculum through reading a story together, talking about its components, and then writing stories of our own. The work of the children was impressive! From Kindergarten up, they completely grasp what a story is. In the next weeks, we hope to continue to build on this foundation and explain the many different ways to share stories.

On Thursdays, we will be hosting ‘artist workshops.’ We bring in storytellers from the community to share about why they love stories, how they tell theirs, and tips on how the WAI students can do the same.


During our first week, we welcomed Jacob Robinson, local storyteller through film and written word, to share ‘Storytelling 101′ with the students. Jacob told our students about his favorite story, how to use anything as inspiration for a story, and tips on how to be a better writer—number one being: write everyday.

At the end of this workshop, the students were introduced to the idea that they are in the process of writing their own story. Biographies and autobiographies are the written stories of lives–as people lived, their actions wrote these stories. Our actions are part of our stories–they are our stories.

Not only are we able to share skills that will improve critical thinking skills (and hopefully school scores), but we are teaching life lessons. We cannot see what the rest of the year will hold for us!

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If you want to help or be a part of this amazing organization, contact!

Be (more than) Content.

Today, we share our story, of all the dreaming we have undergone, the plans we’ve been hoping for, and our plan to forge ahead and make this year the best.

At the end of Spring, our founder and program coordinator spent their days dreaming up everything. From expanding to new neighborhoods and locations, to a new form of programming, to lots of minor and major details regarding WAI. We both wanted to have a bigger impact, and so we undertook to do this in a big way.

The plan was to take on Estella Maxey and Kate Ross and a few schools with an artist workshop program. It didn’t feel like a lot to organize or pull together. All we had to do was find artists with the time and flexibility to teach three classes for three afternoons in a row, and to schedule that with already existing programs  in the new neighborhoods. Piece of cake!

The plan didn’t take to action as easily as we hoped. And along the way, we learned some lessons.

Often when we are in “dream mode,” a case of tunnel vision sets in. We focus on our efforts, our plans, our goals, forgetting that the places where we want to go may already have great things going on, or that the people we hope to recruit may not have a schedule that fits with our plan. This was the case for us. Restoration Haven is a non profit focused on providing information and resources to those in the “at-risk” population; their office is housed at Estella Maxey. Likewise, several churches and organizations are doing great work at Kate Ross. We have been one of very few groups to reach out to South Terrace. Rather than just being content at one place, we need to be more than content, maximizing our effort and our ability and reaching out as much as we can to one place before moving on to others. Thus, we are staying and focusing on South Terrace this year, offering more resources and tailoring our program to different age groups.

As far as the artists for our workshops, we learned that asking a little is sometimes better than asking a lot. When we cast out our net the first time, we pulled in little response. We asked people to take off three afternoons a week for 2 hours (during a normal working schedule) to come, with supplies, to three different locations, with an activity prepared. If you got that email, would you respond? Our lofty dreams had us asking for more than what was reasonable. Especially for a ‘trial basis.’ With some reevaluation, we realized that asking less, asking what would be normally reasonable, is best.

When we factored in reality to our dreams, we were able to come up with something really great. Staying at South Terrace allows us to focus solely on a community, to invest deep, not wide, to work with families, not just students. This is much more exciting than hopping to three places each week. So are plan is to continue offering the visual arts that has characterized our program and gained much love from volunteers, and add one day of artist workshops for local artisans to come teach about writing in all its many forms. We also are hoping to work with parents on a bi-weekly basis offering classes and resources to them.

These are good and reasonable and wonderfully attainable dreams. We are more than content with what this semester is looking like. We still don’t have every detail worked into a finite schedule, but what we have are plans for small changes with big impact. Stay tuned!

To get involved this semester, contact Program Coordinator Maggie Griffin at

Art 2 Neighbor

Throughout the 2012-2013 year at Waco Arts, we have maintained our programming at the South Terrace neighborhood, created new partnerships, and hosted community events that we hope become annual traditions. As we look toward the future, we are excited to find new ways to continue doing what we do with more impact, while serving even more community members. We hope to merge into some of the local schools, expand to two more public housing neighborhoods, and create more events for community involvement. For our neighborhood expansion, we have specific ideas that could involve you!

In continuing our weekly programming at South Terrace (as well as expanding to Kate Ross and Estella Maxey), we are looking to provide more diverse artistic educational experiences for our students through demonstrative workshops. We are hoping to feature one artist and their talent per week throughout the school year. Some of our most successful events in the past have been when community members come in and share their extraordinary gifts (ex: green screen film day, theater arts, painter demonstration, photography lesson). The children respond in amazing ways and you can see that they begin to picture their future in new ways.

If you are interested in volunteering your artistic talents, please e-mail Maggie Griffin at!

Art 2 Schools!

Wow! This summer has flown by and Waco Arts Initiative is so ready to kick off the new school year! We are excited to have Maggie heading up Waco Arts Initiative’s programs for her second year with us! Maggie, you are amazing! Thank you for all your hard work the past 12 months. We could not have done it without you; and thank you to our partnership with Family Health Center in Waco for your AmeriCorps sponsorship  and support.

As we look forward to the fall, Waco Arts Initiative is looking to add an additional HealthCorps member to our team for the 2013-2014 year. Member will help implement creative arts projects in schools to promote positive mental health for youth. Position will begin September 1st, 2013.  If you are interested in applying, please download the WAI Position Description and contact Maggie Griffin at

Timeline of a Year’s Worth of Projects!

Take a look at our year studying the different movements of art history! Our Program Coordinator, Maggie Emerson, wrote this year’s fun curriculum, focused on moving through the history of art while learning about why people used art to tell their stories and all the different ways they found to express themselves. We did our best to emulate the types of art while trying to infuse it with our own stories and experiences. See how we worked our way through time below and then head on over to Facebook to see more of our student’s creations :



End of Year Wrap-Up

At Waco Arts, we work on a school schedule, so we have wrapped up programming for the year. We wanted to share with all of our fans and followers about how successful our efforts and curriculum were this year! Keep checking back with us as we continue to post photos from this year as well as exciting plans and opportunities for the next year!

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