Taking Flight: a farewell to ArtPrenticeship 2018

By Stefanie Wheat-Johnson
ArtPrenticeship Project Manager

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Left: Join us for the official Mural Wrap Party and enjoy food, music, and origami! Above: Family and friends of ArtPrenticeship artists and students got a first look at "1,000 Hopes for Waco" after its completion earlier this month.  Photo property of Waco Tribune-Herald.

Left: Join us for the official Mural Wrap Party and enjoy food, music, and origami! Above: Family and friends of ArtPrenticeship artists and students got a first look at "1,000 Hopes for Waco" after its completion earlier this month. Photo property of Waco Tribune-Herald.


When you grow and nurture a living thing, you must have a vision of what will take shape. This is true whether you’re a gardener planting a sapling tree, or a new parent meeting your infant and then guiding her toward maturity. All endevours that require this tending and nurturing have learning seasons and times of challenge or growth. This summer, it has been a true delight to witness the ARTPrenticeship program take shape and become a living and breathing, powerful force. It’s claimed a space in Waco and has left a beautiful mark on our city’s landscape and soul.

The souls for whom this program has had the primary impact are now preparing for their senior year in Waco ISD. Our apprentices took hold of the vision shared by mentors, and made it their own. Each one of these young people has left an indelible mark on the star of ARTPrenticeship, Creative Waco, and all of our partners. I find myself humbled, joyful and deeply satisfied when I think of our overall collaborative effort.

In the span of a summer, with remarkable and invaluable support from our community, I had the privilege of connecting the dots and creating the right structures to support out mentor artists and 10 apprentices in their work. Many things went according to plan, and the things that did not were overcome or our adaptations became an improvement to our original vision. Those of us in the mentor positions grew and learned right alongside these high school students and their voices made this experience a truly rich one. With each task accomplished, skill learned and goal completed, we could see a part of our present and future city connecting and soothing themselves in work that they took pride in.

While all of this great (challenging, hot, sweaty) labor was happening on our work site, there was an equally significant work happening off site. This work manifested itself in the generosity and encouragement of supporters and sponsors, and in the plain old enthusiasm of anyone and everyone who connected with the project. Each of you lifted up our apprentices and helped them see themselves in new light. Thank you. There is nothing like sharing a vision and then seeing it spread! As we move toward the launch event to celebrate our first completed mural, we’re already beginning to plan and dream again. I believe that ARTPrenticeship has a special part to play in the growth and change in Waco today. It inspires, challenges and connects us as humans in community and celebrates the best in us all.

The stories of these young people are writ large and embedded across a vibrant and breathtaking canvas on 2nd and Jackson in downtown Waco. Their stories, imprinted on our hearts, are paired with their hard earned determination and growing confidence. They have so much to be proud of when they see those stunning forms on the wall come together. They have memories with each other and their generous artist mentors and the skills they gained. Their resumes will speak clearly for them, their hearts and minds are primed for more creative work and they’re one step closer to being who they are each meant to be. The work was the mural, but the mural was in some ways only a lovely by-product of this project; I can’t wait to see what happens next for each of our apprentices and artists.

This is new. This is not your typical internship or arts program. It gets your attention and astonishes you at what can be achieved. The vision I hold in my mind’s eye is of ARTPrenticeship becoming a bold and beautiful voice in the chorus of artists and creative opportunities that work together in Waco. With our city’s youth at its core - it has the power to heal, grow and connect like nothing else. For myself, this project has lifted me up, provided me with new vision and renewed passion. I am deeply thankful to have been a part of seeing 1,000 Hopes take flight this summer.

ArtPrenticeship: team near end of mural work

By Rae Jefferson
Director of Marketing and Communications

With much planning, diligence, and sweat, the ArtPrenticeship team of four teaching artists and 10 apprentices is more than halfway through the summer internship program. They've made great strides over the past several weeks despite several days of rain and are nearly finished with the mural. Below you'll see young creatives hard at work, as well as some of the incredible sponsors who popped in to see how things were going. These generous partners have agreed to supply a $600 stipend for each student at the conclusion of the program, helping Creative Waco reach its goal of paying a meaningful wage to every artist we work with — regardless of age.

You can see the mural-in-progress at 315 S. University Parks Drive, in the same shopping strip as the new Bicycle World. Keep up with our progress on Facebook or on Instagram at @ArtPrenticeship.

ArtPrenticeship: delighting in the creative journeys of young artists

By Stefanie Wheat-Johnson
Project Manager, ArtPrenticeship

The dining room table is littered with paper, books and crumpled birds. The afternoon light catches an array of patterns over the beautiful paper, and makes my daughter’s auburn hair gleam. She is studious and diligent with her lips pressed firmly together in concentration and enthusiasm. My heart is so full when I think of her, folding and making and folding again. In the past seven years, my delight has been in parenting three children who glory in making and doing. It is one of the most satisfying aspects of being a mother - seeing them tell stories with whatever is at hand. As a creative who has not always found her footing easily, I have developed a quiet determination to nurture artists at any age on their journey. This summer it is my delight and honor to facilitate a program in which young creatives will get the opportunity to collaborate and tell part of Waco’s story under the guidance of four artists who share this passion for nurturing our young artists and serving our community.

Stefanie's youngest daughter joins the apprentices in designing shirts.

Stefanie with two of her children.

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Creative Waco, with the support of the Chamber of Commerce, has chosen to pilot the ArtPrenticeship program this year in the hopes that this will afford a myriad of opportunities for young people in the Waco ISD and professional artists in our community to create work of public art that will reflect and elevate our neighborhoods. The intended end product of this work is a beautifully designed and well executed mural in downtown Waco. This is a wonderful chance for Waco’s youth to engage with the public, develop skills and relationships that will only deepen with time, and afford them a chance to collaborate in telling a story through art in a public space.

The morning light is pouring through the windows into the airy second story studio space at Cultivate 712 and illuminating tables covered in paper, pencils and a colorful variety of markers. There are heads bowed over sketch books and animated voices discussing how to translate dreams and stories, images and reveries onto the paper in front of them.This is week two of ARTPrenticeship. We’ve hired 10 brilliant and passionate young artists through Prosper Waco and Waco ISD’s internship program, and already we are seeing just how they will fit into this beta test. We’re hearing some clever and intuitive minds open up and share their stories with each other and each of our apprentices has a vision of what Waco is to them. This summer, we’re privileged to hear and see some of that take form.

Among the dreams, there have already been opportunities for our apprentices to hear from local experts in varied fields about what it takes to prepare a site for a mural, how to engage with business owners and entrepreneurs from any line of work, and they’ve learned how to present themselves in a professional manner. Conversations about how artists really get work and support themselves have taken place, and a whole new world is being fleshed out before them. While they’re learning, they’re constantly challenging our team to be our best selves and to grow alongside them. Iron sharpening iron is a metaphor we’ve mentioned to each other more than once as we see dreams meet reality in light of learning new skill. The interaction strengthens all and prepares a great foundation for the work of bringing vision to life.

In my role as project manager, I’m delighting in the same joys I see in my home. This discovery of new concepts, a clarification of old ones, and a deepening of understanding and desire for growth and skill is unfolding right in front of me. Alongside our four mentor artists, I get the privilege of witnessing these young people bravely step up and volunteer their abilities and work hard to learn what all creatives must learn in order to reflect their community and tell their stories; they are learning to listen and to collaborate, and they are sharing their gifts and challenging their weaknesses. We are only at the beginning but what I see before us as we enter our design week, and support them through preparation to paint this mural, is beautiful.

Before the end of this month, all of Waco will see this work take shape as they enter downtown for work or pleasure, and visitors to our city will join us in witnessing the beginning of what I hope is a work with great future here. In the morning light, Monday through Thursday, these young people have committed to putting paint on walls and discipling themselves to follow technique that will create a quality work that will move us all. In the same way our mentors and staff are holding and sustaining these young creatives, I can feel our community gathering around to do the same from all directions. Each day our team remarks to one another, “it’s been a great day, and it’s only going to get better”. And that is what moves me: seeing each other, connecting and growing together, getting better, bringing color to the world around us and remembering why we are all here. Thanks for nurturing us.

New mural program gives creative reins to Waco teens

By Magen Davis
Public Relations Graduate Intern

By the end of this summer, downtown Waco will be home to a new mural.  But unlike existing pieces in the area, this work of art will be crafted by an unlikely group of creatives: 10 Waco ISD high school students working alongside a team of professional artist mentors.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • ArtPrenticeship is an internship program organized by Creative Waco, Prosper Waco and Waco ISD that will teach a group of 10 Waco ISD high school students, or apprentices, the ins and outs of managing a creative project.

  • Four artist mentors will guide the apprentices from concept to completion, designing and painting a mural on the side of a newly completed building in downtown Waco.

  • We're in search of wage sponsors to serve as an accountability partner for performance throughout the summer and help provide compensation for each apprentice at the end of the program.

Students spent the first week painting their official ArtPrenticeship t-shirts to get their creative gears turning.

Students formed goals to guide their participation in the summer mural program.

ArtPrenticeship has roots in the Cincinnati ArtWorks program that Waco leaders learned about on a Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce intercity visit in September 2017. ArtWorks employs professional artists and apprentices ranging from ages 14 to 21 to complete public art projects across Cincinnati, including hundreds of murals on the sides of buildings that are several stories tall.

Creative Waco has borrowed this model and shaped it to fit our own community. ArtPrenticeship is a unique opportunity for creative students to hone their artistic abilities while also learning professional skills necessary to thrive as an independent artist. Emphasis will be placed on safety while working on a mural jobsite, calculating costs, ordering materials, and the importance of collaboration and communication between artist, client and community.

The students will work between several sites across downtown Waco, with most time spent at the mural site at 315 University Parks Drive, a shopping strip next to Bicycle World.

For our program’s pilot year, the students were selected from a diverse pool of applicants through Prosper Waco and Waco ISD’s summer internship program. Two teaching artists and two assistant artists will guide the apprentices through the mural process. Between them are several years of teaching experience, as well as expertise in a wide range of artistic media, including mural installation and painting.

One goal of ArtPrenticeship is to pay all participating students a meaningful wage. Creative Waco is in search of wage sponsors at $600 per student. Sponsorships not only provide a financial reward for program completion, but also ensure accountability for their productivity throughout the program. If you'd like to make a donation toward an apprentice's wage, please click here or email us at

Creative Waco would like to extend a special thanks to our sponsors: Baylor Philanthropy, Cooper Foundation, Magnolia Foundation, Waco Public Improvement District (beautification grant), Mitchell Construction, Turner Behringer Development, Terry and Elaine Stevens, 1519LLC, and Langerman Foster Engineering. ArtPrenticeship would not be possible without the enthusiastic support and resources we've received from these businesses and community leaders.