Waco Chat

Having a Drink With Julie Milstead

By Kevin Tankersley

Artist and Middle School Teacher

“All these artists got together, and it helped change modern art. That’s where I feel like Waco’s going.”

Fiona Bond, [executive director of Creative Waco,] asked me to do the State Capitol ornament for our district. The only [direction] they gave me was that it had to be Waco-themed. And what better thing to do with all this art that has been coming out of Waco lately? It’s like Paris in the 1920s or Oxford in the 1930s.

There are so many of us, and there’s this little explosion going on. It’s just so exciting to see what’s going on. Everyone is starting to collaborate. I’m real excited to see what happens the next few years with everyone being very supportive and us being a [cultural district] now.

The ornament I did is in representation of how Waco is growing in the arts. I did a starry night of the Suspension Bridge in Van Gogh’s style. The other side was iconic things in Waco. The Silos. The Alico building. McLane Stadium. But I did that in the style of Henri Matisse in the Red Room, representative of Paris in the 1920s and how that became the art hub. All these artists got together, and it helped change modern art. That’s where I feel like Waco’s going.

Being an Army brat, I got to live all over, and I got to be introduced to different forms of art, different cultures. My mom and her family from South America were always big into the arts. I call them the bohemian side of the family. I always had it laced in my childhood.

[At Cameron University], I had amazing professors who helped me really grasp onto it and keep it. It wasn’t just a little hobby. They helped me to really embrace it.

[Painting] is my moment of meditation. It’s usually when I’m by myself. The kids [8-year-old Natalie and 10-year-old Peyton] are in bed. I usually listen to an Audible book or I listen to music.

That’s just where I can fall into a different world. I can be there for hours. It’s that meditative state where you’re just sitting there painting, and you feel like you’ve been sitting for 30 minutes or maybe an hour, and I find I’m there for four or five hours. It’s amazing how I can get lost into it.

I was a wrestler in high school. My coach laid that foundation, and now I do jiujitsu, and it’s because of that foundation my high school coach laid for me. I started high school in Germany and finished in Oklahoma. [I started wrestling] when I didn’t make the cheerleader squad. I was a cheerleader one year, and the next year they knew I had no rhythm, so they kindly told me no. I was a tiny, little person, and [the wrestling coach] didn’t have anybody in the 103-pound weight class. It was co-ed.