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Art on Elm Avenue hopes to Spur Revitalization in East Waco

Carlos Morales
Murals adorn the sides of many Elm Avenue buildings. Jenkins says Elm is a great location for art

The fourth annual Art on Elm Avenue will take place this weekend.  The event is a pop-up art exhibit featuring local artists, music and food. It's also attempting to revitalize East Waco in the process.

Art on Elm Avenue was created to inspire an arts district in Waco – what a Chicago-based consultant told organizers the city was missing. And for the last three years, the event has done just that, growing from a modest attendance of a couple hundred in its first year to an estimated 3-thousand-plus, last year. And all of this foot traffic is bringing more attention to the East Side.

Honey Jenkins, director of marketing for NeighborWorks Waco which - with the input of a team of community leaders - created the arts event in 2012

"Part of the event is to not only help with the thriving arts culture but also bring people to maybe a side of Waco that they’ve never been to before and show that there is lots to do here. ”

As I walk down Elm Avenue with Jenkins, we pass a stretch of dilapidated buildings. On the corner of Elm and Dallas – stands the skeleton of a red-brick building.

"This will be the Youth exhibit, it’s actually an old pharmacy and theater as well. It actually has no electricity and no running water," Jenkins said.  

And like most buildings along Elm Avenue – it’s empty.  For at least 13 years, Elm Avenue has been the focus of revitalization. In 2002 there was the Elm Avenue Improvement plan, which called for the “rehabilitation of buildings." In 2010 the Imagine Waco Plan called for similar improvements. But still little has changed. For Nancy Grayson - owner of the Eastside bakery Lula Jane's - Art on Elm Avenue is helping to spur the  revitalization that has been called for for so long.

"And that’s the whole point," Grayson said, "Let’s get folks over here and have them realize it’s beautiful. People are so friendly in East Waco and so welcoming. And I think we’re ripe for that kind of a movement that brings in people for the arts and the culture.”

Art on Elm Avenue is this Friday and Saturday from 10 to 3.