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.
Chinelos, Procesión de la Virgen de Guadalupe, 2013. Photo: Doris Ting
CONTRIBUTOR: Pat Jasper, Director of Folklife + Civic Engagement
In 2009, I began commuting from Austin to work on the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston project. Every day, I would run into something amazing about this city’s different and diverse communities that would thrill me as a public folklorist. My hometown, at the time, really began to pale in comparison to the cultural vibrancy of Houston — from its stunning major cultural institutions to its grassroots cultural communities. I was hooked!
One Sunday, before I joined Houston Arts Alliance as the director of Folklife + Traditional Arts, I was driving through downtown Houston on a cold December morning. My car was stopped for what I thought was a parade, but I soon realized that this was something quite different. I knew, from my previous work in Laredo with a group there, that what I was seeing was a procession of matachines (a religious tradition practiced by Mexican and Mexican-American Catholics in which a group of dancers clad in outfits that reflect Native American ceremonial garb dance their devotion to a particular holy personage or symbol). This wasn’t one group; it was scores of them, and they were moving through downtown Houston! I pulled up a mental calendar and realized that these ensembles were celebrating the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Now, more than five years later, the Folklife program has started documenting this tradition. One of the groups that participates each year is the Danza Chinelos del Estado de Morelos. Their dance, their apparel and their music differ from anything I have ever seen in Texas.
In a Spanish-language interview with Folklife Program Manager Angel Quesada, Yazmit Lopez explained her attachment to the tradition: “When I started, I was blind to what this dance was about. One of the most educational experiences for me occurred when I was younger, during La Semana Santa (Holy Week). During Semana Santa, I discovered a group of Chinelos dancing for the Virgin of Guadalupe. I asked one of the dancers, ‘Why do you come here to dance for the Virgin?’ He replied, ‘Without any money, we bring our dance and our humble (Chinelo) outfits. We offer to dance for her. It’s our gift. It gives us a special connection to the Virgin.’” Yazmit said, “It’s this story that inspires me each time I dance Chinelos.”
In 2015, for Voices of the Spirit V, Danza Chinelos del Estado de Morelos appeared with Banda Viento Morelense de los Hermanos Campos to share this tradition with their fellow Houstonians. The concert also featured on the dame bill The Cortez Family, Cantor Daniel Mutlu, and Chandrakantha and David Courtney. Voices of the Spirit is always a free concert and an annual celebration of devotional music from the city’s diverse faith communities.