WACO, Texas: With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting life down for the better part of a year and a half, local artist Susan L. Sistrunk was looking for a way to save her business while also helping other local artists, so she opened up her front yard for business.
Her studio, located at a 111-year old house on Washington Avenue, now has vendors inside and outside, operating at 100% commission, a rarity for any artist.
“Sometimes galleries can charge 40% or above just to have your work on the walls and there’s no guaranteed sales,” Sistrunk said. “To have something that is 100% free and is available to the artists, it’s pretty powerful medicine in the art world.”
Soon after starting this, she noticed locally-owned businesses on Washington Avenue with outdoor space to showcase the art as well. She has since teamed up with four businesses to create the Waco Uptown Art Walk, held monthly.
“It puts the community in direct contact with the artist,” Sistrunk said. “There’s no middle man, they don’t have to worry about going around anybody and saying ‘hey, I’ll give you this if you don’t go through the gallery,’ it’s direct contact with the artist.”
For the artists, it feels like a weight lifted.
“It’s such an amazing model that Susan has put forth because it really takes a lot of the tension of ‘oh, am I going to make enough to make back this booth fee and make an income for the day?'” Suzi Elnaggar, owner of For Hope Design Company said. “You can really enjoy the time you’re out here.”
The rise of the art community in Waco has even reached around the globe. Artist Cory Lind came all the way from New Zealand in late 2019 to bring his art to a community he feels embraces it.
“It’s pretty much the only thing I’ve had, as far as promotion goes,” Lind said of the art walk. “It’s all been really a good idea to promote the local art scene, the brilliant people that are around here and I’m just fortunate to be part of it.”
According to Sistrunk, the community is responding well, also.
“They’re making those connections with the artist and they’re buying more art now than I’ve ever seen in 25 years,” Sistrunk said.
You can find more information about Sistrunk’s gallery and the art walk here.