Art in Waco has been hard to find if you didn’t know where to look, but now there’s a home for it in Waco’s cultural arts district. December 1st was the grand opening for a dedicated art space in the heart of downtown.
A couple buildings down from Waco’s iconic Hippodrome theater, there’s a new space for arts and culture in Waco. At 712 Austin Avenue is Cultivate 7Twelve. The name is written on the large windows of the storefront.
Marsha Wilson shows me around. Currently on display is a botanical exhibit. There’s an eye-catching grey statue of a rose in bloom. It’s stem spirals down to the floor. And there’s a classic painting of a vase with a single peach beside it on the table.
“Usually it’s an apple sitting on a table in still life to represent the fall of man but he chose a peach to represent Christ,“ Wilson says.
Wilson is one of 7Twelve’s artists in residence. She takes me upstairs to show me her workspace.
Before Cultivate 7Twelve, she was working out of her home and jumping from festival to festival.
“Meeting the public is the fun part but schlepping your stuff back and forth is not fun,” she says.
She’s a pyrographer – I didn’t know what that meant either. Wilson says she creates art by burning leather, wood, and paper. The result is distinct, almost life like lines in her subjects.
“So often people see Marsha’s work and the first thing they think it’s pen and ink on paper,” says Rebecca Gear-Hagman the owner of Cultivate 712. “She has such fine detail so when people walk in the door and I share the process It completely makes the art come alive.”
In a way, that’s the goal of Cultivate 7Twelve – to create a single dedicated space for the arts, a place where people like Marsha Wilson can share their art with the public without having to leave her studio.
Gear-Hagman says founding an art space in Waco had been a longtime dream of hers. She wanted to create a place that could be the heart of Waco’s art scene.
“This was far better and bigger and more beautiful than we imagined. And didn’t really think it could happen,” she says.
In a state full of quirky art towns, Waco’s scene was vibrant, but disjointed. A gallery may open here or there, but until last week, there wasn’t a single dedicated space.
Gear-Hagman says it all started with the Waco 52 exhibit last summer. Back then, 712 Austin Avenue was vacant. The show filled the building with artwork from 52 of Waco’s finest…displayed on the walls, and also printed on a deck of playing cards.
When Gear-Hagman went to see the show, she realized this building would be perfect for the space she’d always envisioned. She met with the building owners and the curator of the Waco 52 exhibit.
“we realized quickly over the course of a week and a half that this indeed could be a reality,” she says.
Gear-Hagman says Cultivate 7Twelve aims to help provide access to artists like Wilson to help sell their work. But it’s more than that.
“Our mission statement isn’t that we sell art. Our mission is that we’re here to be an access point and nexus for Waco’s cultural community and so I think because of the amount of effort going in that’s really why we’re experiencing this acceleration and blossoming,” Gear-Hagman says.