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Houston awards $11.5M to artists, nonprofits as tourism recovers


The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs will award $11.5 million in grants to 57 local artists and 131 cultural organizations in 2023. That’s good news for two reasons. The sum represents an uptick from 2022, when $9.9 million was awarded to 87 individuals and 151 organizations. And, individual artists will receive “cash-in-hand;” prior to 2022, grants were distributed in installments.

“These funds come from projected hotel occupancy tax dollars,” explains Necole Irvin, director of MOCA. “We have been suffering through a limited collection of those funds because of COVID. We did not see those levels of tourism here or anywhere else in the country. So we’re coming back from the height of the pandemic.”

She describes $11.5 million grant pool as a “hopeful number.”

MOCA facilitates the annual grant application process. Houston Arts Alliance manages the grant program and commissioning process for public art.

There are five grant tiers: organizations, artists and creative individuals, festivals, city initiative and Let Creativity Happen.

“Something else we learned from COVID was to change one of our quarterly grants, Let Creativity Happen,” Irvin says. “During the pandemic that switched to a digital grant for YouTube, film and Instagram live-style projects.”

The pandemic was a learning experience for HAA, too.

“Our grants used to be based on projections. For decades it was a stable system, but the terribleness of the pandemic reduced funding by half. Meaning, (artists and organizations) received half of what they thought they’d get in March or April 2020,” says John Abodeely, CEO of HAA. “That mid-year loss was very destabilizing, especially for artists. In response, we decided to change that moving forward so that wouldn’t happen again.”

Moving forward, artists and individuals will receive the majority of their grant up front; minority funds are released after their approved projects are completed. Abodeely anticipates that most awards will be distributed during the first quarter.

HAA received 278 applications from individuals and non-profits for this year’s grant program. Eligible applicants must offer a public exhibition, presentation of performance in 2023. Organizations with an annual budget exceeding $10 million can receive up to three percent of their operating budget up to $1 million. Organizations with operating expenses below the $10 million mark can receive up to 20 percent of their annual operating expenses up to $125,000. Artists may apply for grants up to $15,000; the cap for festivals is $10,000.

“This massive investment into the arts sector highlights how important the arts are to the city of Houston,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner via statement. “The arts help shape our city’s identity and we foster the creativity of our residents for the benefit of every Houstonian. I want this support for the arts to be a part of my legacy as Houston’s mayor.”


Read More: Houston awards $11.5M to artists, nonprofits as tourism recovers

2023-01-12 19:42:43

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