In 2019, the initial pilot project that’s become Chalk Waco was the brainchild of MC Art Supplies, the Central Texas Artist Collective, Cultivate 7twelve, and Creative Waco. Their goal was to provide a corridor on Austin Avenue to display the work of local artists for runners participating in the Silo District Marathon. It came to life as a small, two-block affair, with ten-to-fifteen businesses participating and sponsoring the artwork, but the response from the community was so resoundingly positive that it returned, albeit in a smaller incarnation, in 2021 after a hiatus due to the pandemic.
This year, Creative Waco has partnered with four local markets to bring in more vendors, food trucks, and musicians to entertain the estimated 15,000 people who will attend the event. Over the coming weekend, Chalk Waco will span four blocks of Austin Avenue in downtown Waco and feature street art, wall murals on the 7th Street Plaza, a fashion show highlighting local designers, live music, and over a hundred vendors selling everything from tacos to t-shirts… and everything in between.
Austin Avenue: An Outdoor Art Gallery
Sixty artists have been sponsored by local businesses to cover the pavement on Austin Avenue from 5th Street to 8th Street with original chalk artwork as well as the walls bordering the 7th Street Plaza.
Russell Campbell, a self-taught mixed-media and abstract artist, who is also a founder of local artist collective The Goon Squad, will be creating original artwork for his third year in a row at Chalk Waco.
“I don’t normally work with chalk,” says Campbell, “but I did it for fun the first year, and I think I won second place for the street art prize. But I don’t do it for the prizes, I just do it to be with all my friends. The artist community has really embraced me here.”
Campbell will be hitting Austin Avenue at 4 am on Saturday, May 14, to begin work on his piece, a collaboration with his employer and sponsor, Sherwin-Williams. He and his fellow artists contributing to the street art gallery will have just a handful of hours to complete their works before the event opens to the public at noon. The artists whose work will be displayed on the walls of the 7th Street Plaza have already begun work on their pieces, some of which will remain on display until they are power-washed away a few weeks before next year’s Chalk Waco event.
Each artist receives a stipend from Creative Waco plus an allowance for materials from MC Art Supplies, one of Chalk Waco’s sponsors. But artists like Campbell are happy to participate for the camaraderie and the exposure, and guests will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite artwork throughout the event.
Vintage Clothing, Handmade Crafts, Food Trucks & Live Music
As folks walk down Austin Avenue admiring the artwork, they will be surrounded by multiple bustling markets located in the adjacent parking lots. Four markets that have partnered with Creative Waco for the event: Eastside Market, LuluBelle’s Market, STORIES Market, and the Waco Farmers Market.
Eric Linares will be bringing many of his regular Eastside Market vendors to Chalk Waco this year, along with several new vendors he hasn’t been able to slot into the regular Eastside Market roster. There will be carnival-style foods from food trucks such as Waffle Chic and Boardwalk on Elm, along with Eastside’s signature vintage clothing vendors, artisan crafts, and more.
Nearby, Lori Davidson will be running LuluBelle’s Market with her own lineup of seventy food and craft vendors, along with musical guests such as the Waco Ukulele Orchestra and her son, singer-songwriter Alex Davidson. “It’s such a neat town,” says Davidson about Waco, “and the entrepreneurial spirit at these events has been amazing.”
There will be several music stages dotted throughout the event, so that guests may stroll in and out of multiple simultaneous concerts while they browse and eat.
Keep Waco Loud is in charge of the live music this year, and co-founder Katie Selman-Green is excited about the lineup. A main stage will be on 7th Street and the markets will have their own smaller stages to create a music festival atmosphere.
“The big closer for the event will be Suede,” says Selman-Green, “which is cool because they just won the Battle of the Bands at Freight Bar.” Keep Waco Loud will also be showcasing ever-popular local band The Atkins Tent Revival and CaCean Ballou, daughter of famed zydeco and rhythm and blues musician Classie Ballou.
Several businesses along Austin Avenue will also be hosting their own art-focused pop-ups, and thanks to a permit from TABC, guests will be able to purchase and carry alcoholic beverages from tents hosted by True Love, Stay Classy Waco, and Waco Ale Co.
For those with children, there will be a Family Fun Zone, hosted by the Heart of Texas Children’s Theatre, with a splatter paint wall, craft projects, and other family-friendly activities.
Every Color Is Beautiful: High Fashion Meets Street Style
Chalk Waco’s main event on Saturday night—and its only ticketed event—is the Every Color Is Beautiful fashion show, featuring the work of eight designers and music from several live acts and DJ Matt at Home.
“The goal of the fashion show is to be as inclusive as possible,” says Kennedy Sam, director of marketing and communications at Creative Waco. “It aligns with the overall theme and the goal of Chalk Waco by highlighting the fact that there are so many colors of our community, so many people in our community, and everybody brings their own light and uniqueness to our city as a whole.”
Repurposed clothing, custom-made hats, leatherwear, and more will grace the runway on Saturday night. Logan Allison, an artist, professional model, milliner, and owner of The Heart Hatter, is coordinating the entire fashion show and will be dressing models in several of his original pieces. As Allison says, “It’s going to be a bit of everything for everyone.”
“I reached out to Daniel Jackson,” says Allison, “who is one of the best fashion runway directors in the country and hired him to direct the show. He turns the whole show into a dance, a nice flow, and the stage is going to be beautiful. I couldn’t find anyone to create the walls, so I’m doing a huge, eighteen-foot painting that I’m going to cut up and turn into a wall.”
Allison is working to bring in two musical acts for the fashion show, one to perform at the beginning of the show, and one to perform in the middle. Romeo Vaughn, who Allison describes as an up-and-coming country star, is the fashion show’s opening act and is flying in from Tennessee for the event.
“I guess my motto is, you are one of one, and there’s no one like you that ever was or ever will be,” says Allison. “So, I think even with the fashion show, Every Color Is Beautiful. God has given us so much stuff, and it doesn’t have meaning until we give it meaning. There’s so much today that is cool, but cool today is not cool tomorrow. So, how can we showcase what we’re good at to actually not just be cool but have a meaning behind it and a story that can impact the community? So this fashion show and this whole Chalk Waco event is a beautiful thing.”
“Throughout the pandemic, outside markets were the only way small businesses could interact with each other and the community,” says Kennedy Sam. “Chalk Waco continues to provide a way for us to rebuild that community, and we are really glad to have all of the other markets participating and braiding together different parts of our community.”
Chalk Waco is happening on Austin Avenue between 5th and 8th Streets this Saturday, May 14, from 12 pm to 8 pm and Sunday, May 15, from 12 pm to 5 pm. Admission is free. The Every Color Is Beautiful fashion show will take place on Saturday, May 14, from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm, and tickets are available here.
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