Arts Accountability Houston (AAH) is a targeted initiative organized by artists for accountability from the Mayor of Houston, and by extension, the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). We have come together in response to COVID-19’s impact on Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenue. Because of a projected 50% reduction in HOT funds, Houston artists who were awarded grants by HAA for 2020 have been left in a precarious and uncertain position, with particularly negative effects for working-class artists and artists of color. For communities in Houston, the arts are the lifeblood, a way of imagining new futures, and a platform for vital cultural expression in these difficult times.
As a group, we have three demands for the Mayor of Houston and all relevant decision-makers:
1) MOCA and HAA immediately create a plan to pay, in full, all 2020 individual grantees through whatever means necessary without any interruption to future arts funding awards or amounts; this includes both the Support for Artist and Creative Individuals (SACI) and Let Creativity Happen (LCH).
2) The Mayor, MOCA and HAA will halt the current funding structure for arts grantmaking based on projected HOT funds and work towards immediately implementing one with guaranteed allocations for artists without any interruption in future arts funding awards and amounts. HAA must work with MOCA and Mayor Sylvester Turner to ensure this change is implemented.
3) That MOCA and HAA create a plan and implement the best practices of other publicly funded granting models (Austin, Denmark and New Zealand) in both their compassionate Covid-19 responses as well as ensuring greater equity for working-class artists and artists of color. This is to take place in paid consultation with elected artists and community members of this city.
Why we are asking for this:
We put forward these demands as an opportunity for the Mayor of Houston to recognize the indispensable function of cultural workers by committing to support the vibrant and critical art community during this pandemic. Inherent to any such commitment comes with an understanding that arts grants funding must be maintained throughout this entire crisis.
The City recently voted to increase police funding by $19 million dollars, making clear that while we are in the middle of a fiscal crisis, the city does have access to some additional funds. What we are asking for as an artist community that is concerned not just with ourselves, but with the health of future artists communities, is minimal in comparison to what the city has already funneled into other institutions. Therefore, any pause or decrease in funding, whether temporary or otherwise, should be adamantly resisted at all costs. As the current structure is modeled, all financial risk is assumed by individual artists. To treat individuals as corporations is unethical and incomprehensible; moreover, entering contractual agreements based on projected funds not yet in existence is grossly exploitative of the economic precarity inherent to life as an artist in the United States, particularly for artists of color and working-class artists.
Artists are especially vulnerable given the unemployment and eviction crisis that is bearing down on Houston. Only by meeting these demands will the Mayor of Houston, MOCA and HAA take their first steps towards accountability to the arts community in Houston. Individual artists should not be left to carry this burden alone.
Who we are:
AAH is an ad-hoc group recently formed, made up of current grantees, past grantees, and concerned members of the arts community in Houston. We are committed to working for long-term structural change in Houston that will contribute to greater equity and accountability.
On Friday, October 23, 2020, Arts Accountability Houston retracted the phrase “the consequential mishandling of publicly funded grant allocations” as there was never any intention to lead the public into thinking there had been any dishonest or fraudulent conduct involving public funds. This change was communicated to all signatories prior to this announcement.
Our intention has always been to draw attention to the missteps taken by HAA & MOCA: the general lack of grantee-wide communication and transparency with regards to grant decisions; the delay of eight full months to publicly announce the full list of grantees; and the lack of specific support for artists who were ineligible for CARES Act funds or any other type of relief funding. Furthermore, throughout the entire HAA grant application process, no attention was drawn to the fact that grant funding was based on projected income, i.e. funds not already “banked” and available for distribution. In fact, most of the artist grantees were not informed of this fact until they received their contracts in early March of 2020, two whole months after they were notified their application was successful. Grantees, who at this point in the funding process were inconveniently straddled, had little recourse but to sign their contracts, having already made plans for the year with the HAA grant in mind.
AAH recognizes that HAA has begun to take steps to remedy the situation for the HAA 2020 SACI grantees. However, the rest of the statement still stands and we urge HAA and MOCA to continue to find funds to: make up for the shortfall the 2020 SACI grantees are experiencing; fulfil 2021’s funding cycle; and put arts funding in Houston on more solid ground to ensure equity for the arts in Houston.
(sign our statement here)
Adán Medrano, Artist, Concerned community member
Alli Villines, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Allison Hunter, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Amy C. Evans, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Ana Tuazon, Writer and Curator, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Ann Shi, Art lover, Concerned community member
Anna Mayer, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Anne Houang, Artist & Educator, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Anthony Almendárez, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Ashley DeHoyos, Curator, Concerned community member
Brandon Tho Harris, Artist, Current LCH Grantee
Brenda Cruz-Wolf, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Brenda Edith Franco, Artist & Organizer, Concerned community member
Brent Richardson, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Candice D’Meza, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Caroline, Concerned community member
Carrie Marie Schneider, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Cary Reeder, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Ceci Norman, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Celestina, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Christian Toledo, Artist, Curator, Organizer, Director, Concerned community member
Cindee Travis Klement, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Daniel Bradley Fuller, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Delilah Montoya, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Deyadira Arellano, Community Organizer, Artist Current HAA SACI Grantee
Dennis Nance, Artist, Curator, Past HAA Grantee
Derek Nicholson, Dance Artist, Concerned community member
Dr. Jolie Rocke, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Edgar Guajardo, Lighting/Scenic designer/ Theatre producer, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Elizabeth Rhodes, Editor/Writer, Past HAA Grantee
Elizabeth Webb, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Ellen Ray, Artist, Concerned community member
Erick Zambrano, Artist, Concerned community member
Evan McCarley, Performer, organizer, Concerned community member
Francesca Fuchs, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Gabriel Martinez, artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Guadalupe Mendez, Artist, Organization
Hang Gao, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Hank Hancock, Writer, Past HAA Grantee
Hannah Thalenberg, Reproductive and language justice worker, Concerned community member
Hayan Charara, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Heather L. Johnson, Artist, Concerned community member
Helene Schlumberger, Artist and arts worker, Concerned community member
Henry G. Sanchez, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Houston BIPOC Artist Accountability Coalition, Organizers, Concerned community member
J.E. Hernández, Artist / Non-profit Director, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Jaison Oliver, Organizer, Current HAA SO Grantee
Jan Myckel Angelo Santos, Videographer, Concerned community member
Jasminne Mendez, Program Coordinator for Tintero Projects, Organization
JB Baladad, Artist, Concerned community member
JD Pluecker, Writer & Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Jeanne Jones, Artist, Concerned community member
Jennifer Gardner, Art Administrator, Concerned community member
Jessica Carolina González, Artist, Concerned community member
Jessica Kreutter, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Jo Ann Fleischhauer, artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Jorge Galvan, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Joseph Havel, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Josephine Mitchell, Writer, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Julia Barbosa Landois, Artist, Concerned community member
Julie Bata, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Kam Franklin, Artist, Curator Current HAA SACI Grantee
Karen Navarro, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Katharine Kearns, Artist, Concerned community member
Kathy Dray, Artist, Concerned community member
Kay Sarver, Artist, Concerned community member
Keliy Anderson-Staley, Artist and Educator, Past HAA Grantee
Lara Taber, Artist, Concerned community member
Laura August, Writer & curator, Past HAA Grantee
Laura Napier, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Laura Spector, Artist & Art Instructor, Past HAA Grantee
Leo Tanguma, Chicano Muralist, Concerned community member
Leonardo Lina, Performer, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Lily Cox-Richard, Artist, Concerned community member
Liyen Chong, Artist, Current SACI grantee
London Ham, Artist/Curator, Concerned community member
Loyce Gayo, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Luisa Duarte, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Max C Fields, Curator, Concerned community member
M’kina Tapscott, Artist and Director, Past HAA Grantee
Marc Newsome, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Margaret Steup, Artist, Concerned community member
Margaux Crump, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Marissa Castillo, Organization, Current HAA Festivals Grantee
Marley Foster, Artist, Writer, Teaching Artist, Concerned community member
Mary Montenegro, Researcher & Contributor, Filipinx Artists of Houston, Concerned community member
Matt Manalo, Artist, Organizer, Filipinx Artists of Houston & Alief Art House, Concerned community member
Maureen Penders, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Max C Fields, Curator, Concerned community member
Mela Hörr, Artist, Concerned community member
Michael McFadden, Arts writer, Past HAA Grantee
Michael Peranteau, Director, Past HAA Grantee
Michael Robinson, Artist, Concerned community member
Miranda Ramírez, Editor in Chief, Defunkt Magazine, Organization
Monica Villarreal, Artist, Community Organizer, Danza Azteca Dancer, Mother, etc., Past HAA Grantee
Natalie LaValley, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Orlando Lara, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Pat McEnery, Artist, Concerned community member
Paul Middendorf, Art Administrator, Organization
Peng Zuqiang, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Phillip Pyle, II, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Rachelle Vasquez, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Regina Agu, Artist and writer, Past HAA Grantee
Reyes Ramirez, Writer, Current HAA LCH Grantee
Rivkah French, Rivkah French Choreography, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Robert D. Jackson, Artist, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Ronald Jones, Artist, Past HAA Grantee
Royal Sumikat, Artist and organizer, Concerned community member
Ryan Hawk, Artist, Current SACI grantee
Secunda, Organizer, Concerned community member
Shayna Schlosberg, Art Administrator, Current HAA SO Grantee
Sonny Riyaaz Qawwali, Artistic Director at Riyaaz Qawwali, Current HAA SACI Grantee
Sophie Asakura, Curator, Station Museum; Project Manager, Art League Houston, Concerned community member
Stan Le, Artist, Concerned community member
Stephanie Mitchell, Lawndale, Organization
Suzanne Sippel, Special Projects Director, HCCC, Concerned community member
Tish Stringer, Artist, Educator, Past HAA Grantee
Tony Diaz, Artist, Current HAA SO Grantee
Veronica Gaona, Artist and Teaching Fellow, Concerned community member
Veronica Ibargüengoitia, Artist, Concerned community member
Vincent Vo, Filmmaker, Concerned community member
Zine Fest Houston, Organization, Concerned community member
& 3 Anonymous Concerned Community Members
September 21, 2020
This past week, the Houston Arts Alliance began to circulate a series of options for arts in the city. We appreciate the HAA’s willingness to imagine a new future for arts funding in Houston and its efforts to become more responsive to the Houston arts community. However, we find the options on the future of arts funding being presented by HAA to be unacceptable. These options do not meet our needs as the culture makers of this city. Our original statement, which has been signed by more than 120 past, current, and future artist grantees, still stands; we invite you to read and respond to it. We ask that the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Houston Arts Alliance and all relevant decision-makers continue to find alternative sources of funding to make up for the current HOT budget deficit that do not sacrifice future arts funding. It is crucial that this additional funding should not conflict with existing sources of income for small arts organizations and critical social services. These funds must maintain the freedom of speech, content and subject-matter that is so critical to sustaining the artists’ role in generating public dialogue, discourse, and imagination.
We note that it has been more than 6 months since the pandemic Covid-19 has befallen us. All this time, we were never given any official guidance as to how to complete our projects with 50% of the promised funds while many other public art funding bodies acted swiftly to issue detailed, compassionate guidelines. Some even increased the amount of investment in the arts considerably. We urge you to look at the examples set by the city of Austin, as well as the countries of New Zealand and Denmark (both of which have a lower annual GDP compared to Houston). In Houston, the 4th largest city in the wealthiest nation on earth, we were given notice over summer that our grants would be cut in half. And this last weekend, we were asked to choose between two untenable options for funding, both of which would cripple the local arts community in Houston by freezing or severely limiting grant cycles for the next 2 to 3 years.
We understand that HAA has traditionally served as the advocate for the interests of artists in the city. However, because we understand that arts funding is tied to budgets administered by entities that go beyond HAA, we are appealing to you, our city officials, and arts administrators to find a solution that addresses the current budget shortfalls without sacrificing future arts funding, current critical social services, or adding new restrictions on artists.
(This update was issued by consensus through an AAH meeting with attendees on September 20, 2020.)
What to do next:
If you have already signed the form here are some ideas on how to keep the pressure up!
• Share this page with your friends.
• Come to an AAH General Meeting – we announce these on our newsletters and on our Facebook Page.
• If you are an HAA SACI Grantee, stay tuned for further updates.
• Sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page.
• Fill out this information gathering form. We want to know if your needs are being met as an artist in Houston.
For more information please contact: