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.
Looking for a way to lend a hand? Investing in the arts and culture is an investment in the quality of life for all Houstonians. Join Houston Arts Alliance as a donor, member or volunteer!
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.
Rosetta Gray, Southwestern Trail Ride Association, 2015 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Photo: Pin Lin / Forest Photography
CONTRIBUTOR: Pat Jasper, Director of Folklife + Civic Engagement
Houston Arts Alliance’s Folklife + Traditional Arts Program conducted fieldwork throughout the spring and summer of 2015 in preparation for a project titled Winter Celebrations, to be presented in installments over the course of December 2015 through February 2016. We researched three very different cultural traditions and considered some of the interesting and revealing ways in which they are similar and, of course, many of the ways in which they are drastically different. But rodeo trail rides, the Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe and the celebration of Indochinese Lunar New Year share more than a season. Here’s a glimpse of our current work and the people we are getting to know as a part of it.
Like many Houstonians, Rosetta Gray is not a native of the city. But this hasn’t kept her from regularly participating in an activity for almost 35 years that most Houstonians would consider a central symbol of the city. She trail rides. Even more, she’s the Trail Ride Boss.
Rosetta developed early riding skills growing up in the countryside of Mississippi. She took up trail riding with the Southwestern Trail Ride Association soon after moving to Texas in the late 1970s. She stayed with Southwestern, bringing her children up on the trail rides and now her grandchildren as well.
Southwestern Trail Ride Association is the city’s second official African American trail ride to form after the Prairie View group got started in the 1950s and became a part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The legendary founder of the Prairie View unit, James Francie Jr., knowing that the success of his organization had outgrown the places where they camped and came together, encouraged Rosetta’s husband, Fred Gray, to start a second group in the southwest part of town. Noting that Brazoria County had a strong agricultural economy, he recommended they focus their ride in that sector of the region. Rosetta’s first ride with Southwestern began in Sargent, Texas, some 70 miles south of Houston.
Nowadays, the Southwestern Trail Ride Association kicks off closer in, at a campsite in West Columbia. They begin their ride, as most groups do, by hosting a celebration featuring zydeco music. Over the last 20 years, with the increase of the Creole population in this part of Texas and the music’s association with rural life, zydeco has become the signature music of the Black trail rides.
For many Houstonians, the trail rides -- whether Anglo, African American or Mexican American -- are often seen as a form of dress-up, in keeping with Go Texan Day, the Friday launch for the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. That February event is a special time for the Southwestern Trail Riders, but it carries more historical and regional significance than most know. The Texas Gulf Coast is home to a rich Black cowboying tradition. The counties that surround Harris – especially Waller, Fort Bend, Brazoria and those further south along the Coastal Bend -- are still home to a thriving ranch economy. African American cowboys helped build that economy and it is this legacy that all Black trail ride associations draw on every time they ride out; especially when they ride out for what many consider the largest rodeo in the US, if not the world!