The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) develops policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. It helps the public and City departments and offices realize cultural projects that advance their goals and benefit the city’s 2.2 million residents and nearly 15 million annual visitors.

Cultural Affairs Office

The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs is a resource for the community. It implements the City’s Arts and Cultural Plan with a vision to foster an environment in which art and culture flourish for the sharing and benefit of all residents and visitors. It highlights the local artist workforce through exhibitions in historic City Hall and oversees contracts for grants and cultural services. MOCA facilitates Civic Art acquisitions, temporary art, art donations to the City Collection, community murals, cultural performances at conventions and special projects. 

Houston has tremendous artistic and cultural assets and its internationally-renowned cultural institutions drive a growing creative economy. The city is home to over 35,000 working artists, the first and largest art car parade in the world, the largest rodeo in the world and one of the world’s largest and most respected international photographic events, FotoFest.  Houston is anchored by leading museums and performing arts organizations. It has the highest-attended youth museum for its size in the country, the largest “always free” proscenium outdoor theatre program in the country and the most Cultural Districts in the state– five – designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts. The First Ward has the highest concentration of artist studios in Texas—second in the nation after Hollywood.

The city’s magnificent skyline is made up of award-winning architecture, landmarks and historic buildings. Houston has originated groundbreaking faith, place-based and literature organizations that fuse art with human rights, community development and education. Locally created exhibitions and productions tour the country routinely, shining a spotlight on the city’s artistic excellence. Houston is one of a few U.S. cities with resident companies in symphony, opera, drama and ballet, and more than 500 organizations are devoted to the arts, science and history in the Houston area. Each year these groups have more than 9 million visits by adults and children.

You can find great cultural destinations and engaging arts events going on all over Houston every single day. Visit, Houston Museum District, Miller Outdoor Theatre and Theater District Houston to explore the city’s extraordinary offerings.

Poem from the City's new Poet Laureate, Dr. Robin Davidson


To paint light you must return to that first raw surface
like the wall of a room

in the lives of rooms you never knew.
Return to sheetrock, shiplap, memoryless stone,

or to striations of sun at the bottom of a lake
before shadow accumulates layer by layer.

You must work backwards against pigment,
and dust. Pain and ash. The swift current

of human memory sealing out dawn.
You must close your eyes until you see

your dozing grandmother rock history to sleep.
You are a child in her arms.

2015 State of the City Poem

in recognition

When the architect made his plan, he imagined

His name on the stone but didn’t foretell the

Eventual demise of his creation—its reduction

To rubble.


The gardener works each day, as long as the sun’s up,

On little things. Trimming twigs and leaves. Removing

Rot. Cultivating around the rocks that don’t give way.

She shapes the trees while seeing them 20 years taller.

Doesn’t plant a thing until it’s pictured, in her mind,

In every season. From every angle, in light or shade.

All of this might someday be covered with weeds.

She tries to leave things neat, to make it easy for

Any other gardener who might come along.

She watches the dirt, the sharp metal in her hands.

She watches things we can’t yet see: The grass

When it’s turned greener. The mockingbirds’ return.

Someone’s great-grandchildren laughing under

Honeysuckle showers.

Poem by Qwendolyn Zepeda, Houston Poet Laureate, read at the 2015 State of the City

Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs Launches Arts & Culture Houston on HTV

Arts and Culture on HTV

November 26, 2014 -- Hosted by Minnette Boesel, Arts & Culture Houston highlights some of the incredible cultural events and arts happenings in our City.  View the inaugural segment covering interactive art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, a photographic history about the rise of Tampico's oil industry at City Hall and new City recycling trucks that double as portable canvasses for artists.

Advisory Committee Selected to Help Guide Arts and Cultural Plan Process

November 18, 2014 -- As part of the community engagement process, the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs has announced the creation of a volunteer committee to provide advice on the Arts and Cultural Plan vision and components.

Members of the new Arts and Cultural Plan Community Advisory Committee were invited to participate by Mayor Annise Parker and Co-Chairs Philamena Baird and Rick Lowe.  The group includes individuals with a wide range of cultural backgrounds and community involvement from the nonprofit and creative sectors as well as the business community, academia, community development and service organizations, faith and healthcare. More ...

Mayor Parker Selects Leaders for Cultural Plan Process

July 30, 2014 -- Mayor Annise Parker has selected philanthropist Philamena Baird and Project Row House Founder Rick Lowe to serve as co-chairs of the effort to create a new cultural plan for Houston.

“I want to thank Rick and Philamena for agreeing to give their valuable time and take this on,” said Mayor Parker.  “Houston has changed dramatically since the last cultural plan in 1994.  We are more diverse economically and ethnically.  The number of arts and cultural organizations has grown, and our artist community has become one of the most exciting in the country.  It’s time for a new plan that will position Houston as a leader and destination for arts and culture.” More ...

Report: Arts and Culture Contribute More to U.S. Economy Than Tourism

Marketplace Online
December 13, 2013
Written by: Dan Gorenstein

For the first time the federal government has tallied up the arts and culture contribution to the nation’s economy. It turns out that sector, movies, painting, publishing, cable and more, was worth half a trillion dollars — 3 percent to the gross domestic product in 2011. That’s more than the travel and tourism industry.

“Here you have for the first time, comprehensive empirical evidence from the point of view of economists that the arts play a substantial role in the nation’s economy,” says Sunil Iyengar who runs the Office of Research and Analysis for the National Endowment for the Arts.

In an instant, writers, app designers, publishers and painters just got a bunch of “street cred.” Nearly two million people work in the arts and culture industry which exported about $40 billion in goods and services in 2011. Some economists say ideas, innovation, and creativity are essential to growing the United States economy.

University of Minnesota culture economist Ann Markusen says putting a dollar value to the sector could lead to policies that promote it. “The recognition of the significance of art skills, is going to really be a big boost for artists and also for encouraging young people to go into the arts,” she says.

Who knows, maybe that whole starving artist thing will finally be on its way out.

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