Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is the local nonprofit arts and culture agency that enhances the city’s quality of life through advancing and investing in the arts and diverse cultural programming. The work of HAA encourages Houston’s development and shapes its global reputation by fostering tourism and supporting and promoting the city’s creative economy.
Creating public spaces for civic and cultural use requires artists, designers, architects, and the community to collaborate. By actively fostering these partnerships, both public and private, HAA’s Civic Art + Design program initiates, manages, and maintains public artworks throughout Houston. It serves a vital role as catalyst for change that generates a culturally relevant and rich environment for residents and visitors alike.
Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Civic Engagement program identifies and honors the artistic and cultural traditions of the city’s tremendously diverse and various communities and works to address the needs of all residents through engagement, citizen-driven initiatives, and equitable community outcomes. The Folklife program has been in existence since 2010. The addition of Civic Engagement to its portfolio was enacted through an HAA bylaws change in 2016.
Grants are a fundamental means of promoting excellence in the creative sector. On behalf of the City of Houston, HAA awards approximately 225 grants annually to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and individual artists through a competitive grant allocation process.
Houston Arts Alliance provides voice and leadership through its support of arts organizations and individual artists with programs and services that help build and foster a vibrant and creative community—these programs and services help to ensure that the arts professionals’ creative contributions remain a vital part of community life across Houston and the region.
As the designated, nonprofit local arts and culture agency, Houston Arts Alliance provides a public forum for arts and culture issues that our relevant to our community. Throughout the year, Houston Arts Alliance hosts conversations and panel discussions that are free and open to the public. HAA also periodically convenes the arts and culture field for special opportunities important to the sector.
Houston Arts Alliance continues to play an important role in arts and culture research projects, initiating and participating in studies that demonstrate the far-reaching impact of arts and culture on our economy and quality of life.
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Houston Arts Alliance utilizes different vehicles to communicate with it diverse audiences, ranging from the city’s arts and culture community to residents to tourists. Find out more about HAA’s electronic newsletters and connect with us through social media. Our online Press Room provides resources for members of the media.
Kirtan Musicians, 2013, Voices of the Spirit 3. Photo: Cindy Cheng
CONTRIBUTOR: Angel Quesada, Folklife + Civic Engagement Manager
While I’ve only lived here since 2010, I’ve also lived in Boston and Los Angeles, so have seen my share of diverse ethnic communities. After having moved Houston, I would say Houston definitely holds its own when compared with these other cosmopolitan US cities. In regard to its citizenry and particular Southern charm, which I have experienced firsthand, this city has many deep roots, and its musical traditions have been passed down over the generations.
This is the third year I have had the honor to co-produce Voices of the Spirit, already in its fifth iteration in 2015, along with my co-worker and friend Pat Jasper, the director of Folklife + Traditional Arts at Houston Arts Alliance. The process is always an unexpected adventure with many twists and turns and never disappoints.
Many have come to know this city via its numerous places of worship. These special havens are repositories for traditions from a variety of cultures from far flung places--Houston never stops surprising. Looking back over the past three years, 2013’s Voices of the Spirit 3 was a delight which featured a Vietnamese Choir, Nigerian praise music, Indian carnatic and traditional Sikh music from Punjab, and finally Iraqi Sufi music; 2014’s Voices of the Spirit 4 was further aural pleasure that shone a spotlight (literally) on Chung Mei’s Buddhist nuns, rollicked with Soul Influence’s gospel dynamism, and included the Hindustani master musician Pandit Suman Ghosh.
The 2015 concerts looked like another eclectic presentation of devotional music in the beautiful Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater at Asia Society Texas Center. I worked closely with our lineup of devotional performers, Jewish Cantor Daniel Mutlu, Hindustani musicians Chandrakantha and David Courtney, a gospel ensemble with the Cortez Family, and, of course, the fascinating Danza de Chinelos de la familia Lopez accompanied by Banda Viento Morelense Hermanos Campos. Over the years, many of the Voices of the Spirit groups have never been seen outside of their traditional context – whether it be church, mosque, temple, or other house of worship. It’s worth noting that the opportunity to see a cross section of the faith communities in one sitting is nothing short of extraordinary.
This concert is the result of months of fieldwork and preparation. This entails is a lot of driving, emails, phone calls, late night meetings, attending weekend services and generating documentation to let the public know about these groups. For me, the best part of putting this together is getting to see the interaction between the various groups backstage and in the dressing rooms. Or, perhaps, it is getting to see the reactions of the audience members and their feedback after it’s all said and done. It’s a toss-up. Either way, the ultimate reward of working on Voices of the Spirit is knowing that these very different traditions would never be seen side-by-side each other on stage without the collaborative spirit of so many.