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.
A feature of Houston that many newcomers to the city encounter is the diversity of places to worship that they stumble upon. And it is not just a question of numbers, but the range of faiths these institutions serve. It is possible to drive down one street and pass a Buddhist sanctuary, a mosque, an Eastern Orthodox church, a Hindu temple and a Nigerian Anglican church. In fact, all of these structures are home to communities – communities organized around shared religious belief and experience. This shared experience combines many artistic traditions that demonstrate and articulate these collective beliefs. In this regard, music in its many forms, is a special vehicle. In the context of a religious tradition, music can teach, delight and, at times, evoke the ineffable. It can express the inexpressable. Yet, it communicates even when it is indescribable.
In recognition of this, one of the first major projects of the new Folklife + Traditional Arts program of the Houston Arts Alliance was a concert entitled Voices of the Spirit. The event was so well received and the diversity of devotional musics and musicians so vast that a second concert was scheduled for 2011. It has been an annual event
The video featured here presents a glimpse of the fourth iteration of this project. It previews the concert but also introduces us to some of the participants and their stories. Presented in partnership with Asia Society Texas, Voices of the Spirit IV treats three distinct faith communities. As with all years preceding, this version of Voices of
the Spirit shares an entirely unique musical line-up from years past.
The members of Chung Mei Buddhist Temple, both the Venerables who conduct the dharma services there and the adepts who assist them, are followers of Fo Guang Shan and the International Buddhist Progress Society, founded by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun. The temple was established in Stafford in 2001 and is home base to a small but energetic group of Buddhist nuns, referred to as Venerables. The Venerables lead the dharma services utilizing intoned praise and chanting as central to the worship activities of the congregation. They instruct key members of the congregation in the use of traditional liturgical instruments such as the gong, hand cymbals, drums and other percussion to accompany this aspect of Buddhist practice. As part of his teachings and from his earliest years, the Venerable Master Hsing Yun stressed the significance of these sacred items and their sound, and the role they can play in transforming contemporary Buddhism. In fact, his second book-length publication, now available in English as Bells, Gongs and Wooden Fish: Voices for Buddhist Change, uses personifications of the different sacred instruments to describe and assess Chinese Buddhism in the mid twentieth century.
The Soul Influence is a five man African American a cappella gospel quartet who perform everything from what is known in the Black church as “The Old One Hundreds” to more contemporary Christian vocal music. They maintain a style, based on four-part harmony (thus, the term quartet -- when this group, like most, is comprised of five members), that is seldom heard these days, in church or out. In fact, their style is likely familiar to most listeners as comparable to doo-wop, an early form of rhythm and blues music that emerged in the 1940s and gained widespread popularity in the 1950’s and 60’s. However, it was the gospel quartet tradition itself that actually gave rise to doo-wop, rather than the other way around.
Performing together as an ensemble for close to 15 years, all members of The Soul Influence belong to Church of Christ congregations, which have traditionally disallowed the use of musical instruments in the worship service. Hence, the group’s a cappella singing, and choice to do so in an older style, is enriched by this connection. They perform regularly in special church programs throughout Houston, keeping the rich repertoire and distinctively-syncopated style of this vocal music vital and dynamic.
As a senior disciple of the renowned Padma-Vibhushan Pandit Jasraj-ji, Pandit Suman Ghosh is an especially noted flagbearer of the school of Hindustani music known as Mewati Gharana. Now a seasoned and celebrated vocalist and musician, Pandit Ghosh is a third generation musician who began his involvement with music at the age of 7 under the guidance of his mother. He continued to study with other well-known teachers and graduated eventually to work with the living legend of Indian music, Pandit Jasraj-ji, who transformed him into a full-fledged performing musician. As a result, Pandit Ghosh has performed throughout the US, India and across the globe, sharing the rich musical traditions of Mewati Gharana style worldwide.
Now a resident of Houston, Pandit Ghosh has also carried on the tradition by serving as a teacher to many young musicians in the Houston area and beyond, and by founding the Center for Indian Classical Music Institute of Houston. The music he performs and teaches is associated with Northern India and has always contained a strong devotional component identified with the Hindu religion, but its roots combine several musical elements, including the Vedic chants, ancient Persian music, and various folk traditions prevalent in the north of Indian.