Colleagues and Friends:
Our city has experienced tremendous change in recent years. We are now more diverse, more global, more densely populated, and have a more diversified economy than in the past.
Within the arts and culture community we have experienced tremendous growth as well. New global communities have brought their artistic and cultural practices to Houston. Ever-expanding opportunities in higher education have attracted more artists and creatives to our city than ever before – with many choosing to stay and make Houston home. We have witnessed an expansion in the gallery sector and collecting community, and, through the efforts of many, our city’s brand as a cultural center continues to become more refined and expand.
As our city has evolved, so too has Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). As the city’s public-private partnership to advance the arts and culture, HAA has been given the mandate to leverage public investment in the arts with additional resources; work in partnerships to expand the visibility of Houston as a cultural destination; engage our new civic members; increase corporate support of the arts; provide cultural policy research to educate decision makers on the power of the creative economy; enliven public spaces; and identify and cultivate new cultural opportunities for our city.
However, the core of HAA’s work has always been and will continue to be direct investment in arts and culture organizations through grants and substantial capacity building resources, grants to individual artists, and, importantly, stewardship of the city’s civic art program. This commitment has remained a core component of HAA’s grant making philosophy and has been repeatedly reconfirmed by leadership, even during the economic downturn when fewer funds were available – in addition to times of political pressures. A city’s cultural community is only as dynamic as the work of the city’s artists and therein we must continue to invest in that work. Said simply, HAA is successful only if the field is successful, and at the core of the arts sector is you, the artist.
I want to be sure that you, as a Houston artist, are familiar with the resources available to you through HAA, and the limitations on what HAA can provide.
HAA’s long-standing annual Individual Artist Grant program provides grants to emerging as well as established artists. The category is funded with HOT monies at the same percentage of HOT revenues each year. All grants are reviewed through a peer panel review process, which is the national standard for distribution of public funds for the arts.
Since 2007, and through our Civic Art + Design program, HAA has commissioned or acquired more than 200 artworks. More than 80% of that artwork is by Houston artists and others from the surrounding vicinity. HAA’s review process is in fact, complex, and can appear laborious and opaque. The truth is, the process (though long) is consistent, democratic, ordinance-mandated, and necessary when utilizing public monies. Visual arts professionals populate selection panels, while all subsequent reviews are designed to ensure best practices are applied and rigorously adhered to. We look forward to announcing in the coming few months a call for panelists as well as a call for artists to be pre-qualified for upcoming commissions.
And, finally, through our Temporary Art Program, visual artists and multi-media teams are often commissioned for special, one-time or periodic projects. An excellent example of this is What Time Is It?, the unique collaboration between Musiqa and Jo Ann Fleischhauer at Market Square Park.
As the city’s public-private local arts agency, HAA is committed to the importance of artists in our city. Since 2007, our commitment has been to augment public funds with private resources for HAA programs that this agency is uniquely positioned to produce. Those programs include the Folklife + Traditional Arts program, the Capacity Building Initiative (for organizations), and temporary public art. 85% of HAA funding comes from the public, and we raise the remaining 15% for programming through our long-standing contractual relationship with the City of Houston.
At the core of the work conducted by the more than 250 arts and cultural organizations is your work, the work of artists. HAA is committed to that important work.
In the coming months I look forward to sharing more with you about HAA. My personal commitment is that HAA hears, convenes and responds… That we continue to distribute public funds for the arts at the highest level of professionalism and transparency, and that HAA continues to be a national model for advancing the arts at the local level.
President + CEO