May 10, 2023 -- Houston City Council approved a $5 million investment of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the Arts Sector during this morning's City Council meeting. The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) will distribute the funds through this Houston Arts and Cultural Stabilization Grant Program to arts and cultural organizations during this calendar year.
COVID-19 had a devastating impact on the arts and cultural sector’s ability to host public gatherings, which has resulted in historic losses of earned income due to canceled performances, exhibitions, and gig work for creative workers. One of the City of Houston’s main investments into the arts and cultural ecosystem is through the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which saw a loss in income in 2020 and 2021 that totaled $11,600,000.
The City of Houston is vibrant because of its diversity of artists, arts nonprofits, and cultural centers rooted in deep traditions. In an unprecedented effort, a unified coalition of arts leaders across the city, including the leaders of all seven of Houston’s state-certified cultural districts, came together to ask for help restoring Houston’s arts ecosystem and reinvigorating the travel and tourism industry.
“Our deep and diverse cultural communities attract tourism, new residents, and national attention,” stated Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The cultural sector is not just one of our defining features and economic drivers, it is the soul of our city.”
To assist the arts and cultural sector in a strong and equitable recovery, MOCA, in collaboration with Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA), will distribute the federal ARPA funds via an open application. M-AAA, the regional arts organization that empowers community through art for the six-state region that includes Texas, is a trusted partner with a track record of helping the city efficiently distribute federal funds.
Art is a catalyst for expression, connection, collaboration, and community. “Supporting our arts and cultural organizations and helping them recover from the strain of the pandemic not only strengthens our economy, it strengthens our sense of community,” said Todd Stein, M-AAA’s president and CEO. “We are honored to partner with the Mayor’s office on this grant opportunity to help arts organizations preserve our collective history and amplify artistic voices that deserve to be heard.”
In its administrative role, M-AAA will create an open and accessible application process for Houston arts organizations. Grants awarded from the Houston Arts and Cultural Stabilization Grant Program will provide direct support to arts and cultural organizations that generate economic activity and support their communities well-being. Arts and cultural organizations can apply for grant funding in the three operational areas: salary, local artist contracts, and marketing.
In the coming month, M-AAA will release the guidelines for the Houston Arts and Cultural Stabilization Grant Program with a month-long application period in June 2023 and distribution of grants in September 2023. Previously, the City of Houston via the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) successfully engaged M-AAA in late 2020 to manage and distribute the City of Houston Musicians and Music Venues Economic Relief Program funded through the Federal CARES Act.
The COVID-19 public health crisis wreaked havoc on the creative economy. According to the Texas Comptroller, Texas’ arts and entertainment industries were among the hardest hit by the pandemic with $1.6 billion in cumulative losses for the creative industries in Houston along with a loss of more than 42,000 creative jobs. The American Rescue Plan Act singled out the travel and tourism industry – which includes the arts – in its guidance and will have a direct and indirect impact on the Texas’s continued economic recovery.
For further information on the Houston Arts and Cultural Stabilization Grant Program, visit www.maaa.org/for-organizations/moca.
About Mid-America Arts Alliance
Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) strengthens and supports artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and beyond. To learn more about M-AAA grants, programs, exhibitions, and fellowships, visit www.maaa.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs 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 and Instagram @HoustonMOCA.