For Richard Lawson and Tina Knowles Lawson, the arts is a vital part of every community.
As artists themselves, with Lawson being an actor for six decades and Knowles Lawson a fashion designer, the pair combined their efforts to open up the WACO Theater in Los Angeles.
Having recently opened its door, the space boasts an art gallery, performance stage and theater. WACO Theater Center will also have community mentorship programs that include Tina’s Angels and Richard’s Warriors focusing on the education and empowerment of 14-15 girls and boys.
“We really want this to be, as the name says, a place where art can occur (WACO) all forms of art,” Knowles Lawson told ESSENCE. “That includes comedy, and book readings and poetry. People can come here and express themselves.”
Lawson had the exact same sentiments as his wife.
“I’ve seen the power of art on so many levels —on a personal level, on an emotional level, on a political level, on a spiritual level,” he said.
“So art is a powerful tool in terms of effecting change. It’s the most immediate kind of change, it effects the change immediately across the landscape of human beings. It’s one of the most powerful ministries there is.”
For the couple, arts education and access to people of color all comes back to their children —Beyoncé, Solange Knowles and Bianca Lawson— who have dominated in music and acting.
“With them, they were fortunate enough to come from a middle-class background,” Knowles Lawson said about her two Grammy award-winning daughters. “But there are a lot of kids that don’t have access to what they had access to and that’s the only place they can go and express themselves and grow and get the nurturing that they need. So I just think that it’s vitally important that art is a part of life, and their experience.”
Lawson chimed in saying, “I’ve been a teacher for thirty years, so I’ve taught tens of thousands of students. And when you see somebody make a metamorphosis, where they change and you see the character they play influence the human beings that they are.”