The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA), in partnership with the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), is awarding $9,998,343.77 in grants to 87 individuals and 151 arts and culture nonprofit organizations.
The funding is part of a strategic and compassionate response to the impact of the pandemic on the City’s arts and culture and will sponsor projects offering public exhibitions, presentations, and performances in 2022. The City, in partnership with HAA, is leveraging 2021 grant funding by supporting new grantees and 2020 grantees.
“Houston is an international arts and culture city, and our continuous investment in the arts builds a strong foundation for the future,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The awards will strengthen Houston’s creative economy, which includes artisans, artists, musicians, creative workers, festivals, and organizations that reflect the diversity and inclusivity of our City.”
The funds were awarded via the Support for Organizations, Festival and Support for Artists and Creative Individuals grant programs, which supports individuals, nonprofit organizations and fiscally sponsored projects with annual arts and cultural programming that is available to Houston residents and visitors. These competitive grant programs are managed and administered annually by the HAA and are funded by a portion of the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT).
The competitive grants programs include an annual improvement process that begins in January of each year. All aspects of the competitions are updated based on community input and the City’s goals. During the summer, the staff of HAA launches each competition through social media and newsletter publicity, and then conducts several public workshops about the process of creating a competitive application. Competitions are open to the public for two or more months, during which the HAA staff takes meetings and phone calls upon request and answers email questions from potential applicants.
All applications received by the published deadline are reviewed through a two-step process. First, applications are reviewed by HAA staff for objective eligibility criteria. For example, the applicant must be based in the City of Houston and must offer publicly accessible programs during the time the grant will be active. Second, all eligible applications are read and scored by panelists, who are experts in the arts and community vetted through the HAA Grants Committee of the Board of Director. Each year, HAA assembles between 50 and 120 panelists, depending on the number of applications that must be read and scored. Panelists include artists, arts managers, community leaders with engagement or passion for the arts, arts audience members, and other members of the arts community. Panelists, like grantees, cannot be employees or board members of HAA, nor their family. Panelists must remove themselves from scoring if they have a financial or other meaningful conflict of interest with any application. The competition process is reviewed in full by the Grants Committee of the Board of HAA, voted on and then advanced to the Board of HAA for its review and vote. Once Board review is complete, the results are sent to the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs as a packet of recommended grantees for the City’s approval.
Due to the pandemic, in partnership with Houston Arts Alliance, the City responded to calls from the arts community for a compassionate, strategic response to the impact of the pandemic on our lives and our work. Specifically, the City’s Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue, which funds City arts grants, was depressed by 50% in both 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. To provide critical, continued support to artists and nonprofits negatively impacted by the pandemic, HAA extended 2020 contacts into 2021, using 2021 HOT income to ensure 2020 grantees were able to complete their important arts programs for Houstonians and visitors. With City support, HAA also provided maximum flexibility to all grantees to adjust their grant-funded programming in scale, scope, type, or format. Grantees were encouraged to re-envision their grant-funded work to meet limitations suddenly created by the pandemic’s impact on personal health, community connection, the economy, and their artistic vision.
About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA)
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs guides the City’s cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs
About Houston Arts Alliance
Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is a local arts and culture organization whose principal work is to implement the City of Houston’s vision, values, and goals for its arts grantmaking and civic art investments. HAA’s work is conducted through contracts with the City of Houston, overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. HAA also executes privately funded special projects to meet the needs of the arts community, such as disaster preparation, research on the state of the arts in Houston, and temporary public art projects that energize neighborhoods. In short, HAA helps artists and nonprofits be bold, productive, and strong. Visit www.houstonartsalliance.com.