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 Karen Ross.

DEPARTMENT: Communications

RESPONSIBILITIES: I maintain, corral, nag, edit, hunt, scour, update, hand-hold and in every way, manage the Artshound.com website (and all of its ancillary parts).

This entails editing the copy and images for all the events on the site….those that are posted from the hosting organizations, and those events that I have to find and create. I assist artists and arts organizations with their posting questions. I also curate the weekly e-blast, curate and write the Twitter and Facebook feeds, manage the syndication feeds to our partner websites (whose calendars are fed by Artshound), and promote the site to the public and also to event hosts who would benefit from exposure on the site.

And occasionally, I help confused patrons navigate the site and pick out events they may like…as when they call and wonder what their grandchildren might enjoy attending that night.

DEGREES / CERTIFICATES: I graduated Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts degree in RTVMP (Radio/Television/Motion Pictures), a minor in Russian, and with an honors certificate in Screenwriting.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN THE ARTS? This is my first full-time “day job” in the arts. Prior to HAA, I worked for 25 years as a media specialist in the advertising field, handling clients such as Foleys, Safeway, a consortium of cable industry entities (such as Time Warner, Disney, Turner, etc.), utilities concerns, and oil & gas and chemical companies.

WHAT IS YOUR PAST EXPERIENCE WORKING IN ARTS & CULTURE? I have worked on-and-off since I was nine years old as a professional actress and singer. I am also a published poet. PLUS, I make jewelry that I occasionally sell, but mostly just foist on too-polite-for-their-own-good friends.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING AT HOUSTON ARTS ALLIANCE? We really truly help people. I am surrounded by co-workers who take very seriously the “service” element of HAA as a Service Organization.

For me, Artshound.com is the perfect culmination of a career spent both in advertising and in the arts. I get to use my for-profit communications skills in the service of the cultural community, and, in an even broader sense, in aiding the public at large.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS / ATTRACTIONS / EVENTS IN HOUSTON? I am a big fan of anything casual and funky, anywhere I can bring my dog, and anywhere the artist is present to have a conversation about what they have created. And maybe places that serve beer.

As such, I love the First Saturday Arts Market in the Heights, and the Pop Shop events, and other one-off craft shows, and the annual Star Wars Art Festival. I love seasonal festivals and street fairs and contemplative spaces and music and theater and dance.

I am a huge fan of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Main Street Theater, and Discovery Green and the Houston Cistern and the Houston Zoo and…oh gosh…just too many organizations and events to begin to name them all.

FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF: I am a marketing geek. Clever promotion genuinely excites me…maybe as much as “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” and The Muppets (although, frankly, they are all prime EXAMPLES of brilliant marketing), and almost as much as Australian Cattle Dogs and purple holiday lights.  THAT much.

In another life, I would be a social psychologist.  I am giddily fascinated by what motivates people to purchase / participate / attend / etc. I love the interconnectedness of product / medium / message/ image.  Like say….a geek.


Conversely, it is absolutely maddening to me when marketing is done poorly… and there is a woefully large amount of promotional illiteracy in the world. Guiding organizations to the use of better communications tools is part of why I do what I do.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PETS? The love of my life was an Australian Cattle Dog – a Red Heeler – named Roobeus (named after a Harry Potter character, natch). He was trained as a therapy dog, and despite being left on the streets and starved for the first two years of his life, forgave all and gave back ten-fold.

He passed away this year at age fifteen, and I now have met my new love.

Artemus (ARTIE, for short…and named after a favorite TV character from my youth) is also an Australian Cattle Dog rescue, this one a BLUE Heeler. We are taking classes to train him for therapy work as well, but he is still a puppy. Puppies are as cute as they are so that you don’t KILL THEM.

In between being sweet and adorable…an ideal therapy dog candidate…Artie does things like steal a whole loaf of bread from the kitchen counter, or chew through the U-Verse line on the outside of the house. 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW GROWING UP? “The Wild Wild West”! (And now….if you are older than 45… the theme song is stuck in your head).

WHICH MUSEUM (IN THE WORLD) IS YOUR ABSOLUTE FAVORITE? WHICH ARE YOU DYING TO GO TO? I love The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, and The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. All of them have amazing collections of art, but I love these particular museums even more for the beauty of their architecture and the vistas surrounding them…The Hermitage looking out on the Neva River, the Musee D’Orsay on the Seine, and The Ringling on Sarasota Bay.

Of collections themselves, my favorite has to be The Chicago Art Institute, which houses my all-time most beloved painting: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. This museum is also practically an “Art 101” of so many adored artists: Caillebotte, Hopper, Chagall, and on and on.

And a “shout out” to three of my favorite museums in the ‘funky/odditities’ division: The Ringling Circus Museum (which includes a scale model of a day in the life of a circus that takes up almost an entire floor), De Kattenkabinet in Amsterdam (a patrician home turned into a showcase of artwork dedicated to our feline friends), and Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum in Rudesheim, Germany (music boxes and automated instruments and more). 

WHO WAS THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN YOUR LIFE? My parents are the smartest, most interesting, most creative, most caring people that I will ever know. My grandparents as well, were amazing people. On both sides of my family, I have grandparents who fostered an appreciation for education and for the arts. In one generation in this country, my family went from impoverished, to a grandmother with a Master’s Degree, and my mother with a Ph.D. My brother and I are enormously blessed, and could only hope to live up to the example they have set.

I am also graced with a circle of incredibly loving, gifted friends who inspire me daily to be a better person and to try to earn the faith they put in me.

WHAT OTHER LANGUAGES DO YOU KNOW? Once upon a time, I was fluent in English, French and Russian. With a smattering of Hebrew and German as well. NOW, I am lucky if I can complete a sentence just in English.  Sigh….

WHAT KIND OF IMPACT DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE ON PEOPLE? I do what I do because of how enamored I am of my adopted home, Houston. And because of how grateful I am for all the opportunities this city has afforded me.

Artshound.com is a love letter to Houston. I want everyone to know how exciting and fun and funky and wonderful this city is.  And I want all the promoting organizations and all the artists and entertainers to have access to communications tools where they can get the word out about what they are doing.

If what I am doing is successful, then I like to think I am giving back to all of those constituencies…the artists, the organizations, and the city.

One of my favorite things is for someone to say “I heard about this event on Artshound,” and to tell me that they have discovered something new because of my efforts.