Hello, Houston!

Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is the city’s designated local arts and culture agency.



Houston Arts Alliance

Ever wanted to put a Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) name to a face? In this series, we introduce you to our staff, providing a little insight into who they are, and diving into what it is they do. We hope you’ll get to know us! This month the spotlight is on Gulara Alakbarova.


RESPONSIBILITIES: I am responsible for managing HAA’s grant programs. This includes analyzing the needs, eligibilities, goals and objectives of particular grant categories as well as shaping the framework for their implementation, preparing info materials to communicate program requirements to the applicants and reviewing the compliance of the awarded projects to the agency's requirements. I also participate in our department’s efforts to increase effective processes and procedures management to ensure fair, merit-based distribution of funds. The most important part of my job is assisting our current and potential grantees in understanding our grant programs, specifics of each category, application and evaluation processes. 

DEGREES / CERTIFICATES: BA in Literature, Baku State University; MA in Literary Theory, Baku Slavic University; MBA in Business Administration/Finance, Khazar University. Currently, I am studying online for the Certificate in Improving Leadership & Governance in Nonprofit Organizations, The State University of New York. I also have music college diploma (piano).

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE ARTS? I got my first job as a pianist at the age of 17, the same year that I enrolled at Baku State University for my Literature studies. I played in a hotel restaurant after my classes at the university. This job gave me a lot of exciting opportunities, such as developing myself as an improvising pianist, meeting a lot of great established musicians and working in the diverse multinational environment.

My first job as an arts administrator was in the Projects Department at the British Council in Azerbaijan – British charity, specialized in international cultural and educational affairs. I was assisting in managing arts projects, designing and implementing cultural/education programs and bringing various British artists to Azerbaijan. I was also actively involved in marketing of the events, working with mass media.

WHAT IS YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE WORKING IN THE ARTS & CULTURE? My work has always been related to arts and culture to some extent. After the British Council, I joined the United States Peace Corps team in Azerbaijan, working closely with volunteers, coordinating their cultural and educational projects and serving them as a cultural advisor.


Directly before moving to Houston and joining HAA, I worked for the United States Embassy in Azerbaijan as a local hire of the State Department, where along with the managing grants in the civil society development, I also administered grants for arts and cultural projects.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING AT HOUSTON ARTS ALLIANCE? I enjoy working with artists and arts organizations and I appreciate all efforts HAA makes to foster sustainable development of the arts and culture sector in the city. I also love the fact that my work helps artists from one side and contributes to increase access to the arts from another!

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS / ATTRACTIONS / EVENTS IN HOUSTON? I moved to Houston almost three years ago and have enjoyed the vast variety of cultural life the city offers, from Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera to small festivals, from the Menil Collection and the Museum of Natural Science to small galleries in Heights and Montrose. It’s really difficult to pick just one, but I think I am deeply fascinated by the Museum of Fine Arts Houston – can spend hours there.

FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF: There is a published poem about me.

IF YOU COULD CLOSE YOUR EYES AND BE ANYWHERE ON EARTH WHEN THEY OPENED, WHERE WOULD YOU BE? On the front page on Forbes magazine! Seriously speaking, I would love to visit a lot of places including Iceland, Australia, Newfoundland, Iceland, Italy and many more. But what I really want is to have that ability to be close to the people I love and who are far away from me.

WHICH MUSEUM (IN THE WORLD) IS YOUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITE? WHICH ARE YOU DYING TO GO TO? The Louvre remained my absolute favorite for many years. This September I visited the Art Institute of Chicago and loved it as well. One of the most unusual and creative museums that I’ve ever visited is the Carpet Museum in my hometown Baku.

WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE OF YOUR LIFE? Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst–both are not my most favorite actresses, but their tandem in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is how I see myself and the various faces of my being. Sigourney Weaver’s character Lieutenant Ripley and her flamethrower will appear in the movie from time to time.

WHAT OTHER LANGUAGES DO YOU KNOW? I am a native speaker of Azerbaijani and Russian languages. I can also understand some Turkish.  

IF YOU RULED THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE ON DAY 1? The attitude towards nature. I would do everything to stop that irresponsible and reckless exploitation of nature that we have now.