Cultural Affairs Office
Press and Communications
Improvements to Equity in the City of Houston Civic Art Program Shape New Investments in Public Art
December 8, 2022 -- The Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) has released its third annual demographic review of the City of Houston’s 809-artwork Civic Art Collection in conjunction with MOCA’s Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report. The 2022 Equity Review shows key improvements in art collecting practices for the city and improved diversity among the creators of newly acquired and commissioned artworks.
Released for the first time in 2020, MOCA’s annual review is designed to help advance the City's cultural equity goals and includes statistics on race/ethnicity and gender of artists whose artwork is included in the Civic Art Collection. This year’s review also highlights improvements to the selection processes.
“When my team at MOCA issued the first Equity Review, they made commitments to enact immediate and long-term changes to the Civic Art Program and to focus on improvements to the artist selection process,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “After learning of their initial findings, I gave my full support to MOCA to make program-wide improvements to the City’s artwork collecting processes. Now, two years later, we’re seeing the impact clear values of equity and careful program stewardship can have on improving how we invest in Houston’s artists and serve Houston communities through art.”
Recent selection processes have benefitted from immediate changes made to commissioning practices and have resulted in increased investment in artworks created by women artists and more diversity among artists creating new works for the Civic Art Collection overall.
“MOCA’s work to pursue greater diversity within the Civic Art Collection has largely focused on the artist selection and panelist processes,” said Necole Irvin, MOCA Director. “We know that our work is just starting as the vision for equity is broader and multi-faceted, embracing greater diversity among artistic mediums represented, subject matter, and even the communities which engage with artists and artworks as they are developed.”
Working closely with contract partner Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), MOCA has focused a great deal on understanding applicants and how opportunities reach artists, on improving criteria for engaging panelists for artist selection processes and the information shared with them, and on ensuring Houston communities are represented on each selection panel by those recommended by City Council Members.
“The results of two years of improved standards and practices for the Civic Art Program are promising. We’ve worked to establish a community-centric vision for the Civic Art Program and a preference for collecting artworks that speak to, engage with, and respond to the communities they will reside in and represent,” said Theresa Escobedo, who manages the Civic Art Program. “Our program supports the City’s overall investment in Houston neighborhoods, and because equity is a keystone of Mayor Turner’s administration, many of our current art commissions are being developed for communities of color which have historically been underserved. Our work toward equity obligates us to be sensitive to those histories and nuanced identities, as well as to the artists creating the artworks in our collection.”
In a time of unprecedented activity for the program, MOCA maintains its commitment to survey the Civic Art Collection and report on program progress and policy improvements annually.
Currently, the Civic Art Program and Houston Arts Alliance’s Civic Art + Design team are managing the development and installation of 32 site specific commissions of permanent artworks at City of Houston facilities city-wide, each with a meaningful story of Houston to tell.
To watch the presentation before the Quality of Life Committee, visit https://houstontx.new.swagit.com/videos/189841.
About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) guides the City’s cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at www.houstontx.gov/culturalaffairs and follow us on Facebook & Instagram @HoustonMOCA.