As I contemplated CANYON two months ago, I first thought of a wooded divide with perhaps a stream running down its length. And as I grew up in central Illinois in corn country, I remembered driving down narrow country roads between corn fields and feeling like I was in a canyon, a corn canyon. And the really big city canyons of New York were next in my imagination. It was then I decided to attempt to depict my own little city canyon, Austin Avenue, in Waco, Texas.
Waco, Texas, population 126,697 (2011), has the feeling of a small country town. It is a great place to live and is not at all like the vision some have of it because of events that have happened near Waco. Sixty years ago (May 11, 1953), a devastating tornado almost leveled downtown Waco. I have heard it said that at that time Waco was growing faster than Dallas. The tornado brought that growth to a halt as rebuilding began and today we see the great differences in the two cities.
A certain amount of artistic license has been taken in this depiction. All of the labeled buildings are in downtown Waco, but not necessarily in the pictured locations. Three landmarks were ‘must haves’ for my canyon representation: The ALICO (Amicable Life Insurance Company) built in 1911, the Waco Hippodrome built in 1913, and the Suspension Bridge built in 1870. The first two are in their correct locations; however the Suspension Bridge is not at the end of Austin Avenue (although it is located near Austin Ave).
The technique used for this panel was adapted from a book by Helen Stubbings called Faux Appliqué. Helen has developed a method to use colored pencils and embroidery to simulate appliqué on a quilt. The color on my quilt was applied with Crayola colored pencils on muslin, but I quilted it instead of doing embroidery. The batik tree trunks and leaves are fused onto the piece.
In drawing and planning the design, I made the decision that the buildings should not be overshadowed by the foreground trees, but instead the trees should frame the scene. After wrapping the quilt around the frame, I wished the two side trees had been more visible from the front. This is why you see four “edge” photographs around each side of the panel. They are there to show you the sides of the quilt block, which as usual, is gallery wrapped.
Interesting Waco Facts
Waco is named after the Huaco Indians, the first inhabitants of the area.
The ALICO building (1911) is 22 stories tall. It was originally planned to be 20 stories, but the builder discovered that the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas also would have 20 stories and the number was increased by 2 floors. The building stood strong during the 1953 tornado. In fact, it is said that the building swayed more than 13 inches in the high winds of the tornado. It was reported that employees on the top floors were thrown against the walls. Although most buildings collapsed around it, the damage to the ALICO was largely superficial.
The Hippodrome (1913) was built as a vaudeville theater, complete with a pipe organ in the front stage pit. It then became a movie theater. It closed for a time in the ‘70’s and then in 1980’s the Junior League of Waco took on the project of restoring the facility in response to the need for a performing arts center. Currently one more renovation is being planned for the entire corner.The Waco Suspension Bridge (1870) has a 475 foot long span. It was the first bridge built across the Brazos River, and at the time one of the longest single span bridges in the world. It brought the Texas section of the Chisholm Trail straight through Waco, and the city became a thriving trade center. A toll was charged for each person and each head of cattle. The toll was eliminated in 1889. Today the bridge is for foot traffic only and is a popular spot for parties and weddings.