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About Us

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.

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Public Art

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.

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Folklife + Civic Engagement

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.

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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.

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Capacity Building

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.

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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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Get Involved

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!

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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.

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Remembered, Regained

Immigrant Arts of Houston
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Photo: Alexander's Fine Portrait Design

HAA’s Folklife + Traditional Arts program showcased the rich artistic and cultural traditions residing within the city's immigrant communities through a series of events, including concerts, workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and an exhibition. Remembered, Regained: Immigrant Arts of Houston focused on the musical, visual, and oral traditions that connect Houston’s diverse cultural communities to their homelands, contributing to the vibrancy of the Bayou City. Explore our programs in the list below for more information about each.

Produced in collaboration with Asia Society Texas Center, University of Houston Folklore Archive, VOX Culture, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Children’s Museum of Houston, Multicultural Counseling and Education through the Arts (MECA), Talento Bilingüe de Houston, KPFT 90.1FM and Houston Public Radio – KUHF News 88.7 FM & Classical 91.7 FM.

Remembered, Regained: Immigrant Arts of Houston was made possible by the generosity of National Endowment for the Arts, Houston Endowment Inc., Morgan Foundation, Southwest Airlines, Humanities Texas, Asian American Studies at the University of Houston, and His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismaili Council for the Southwestern United States.



Voices of the Spirit III

Saturday, January 19 – Sunday, January 20, 2013
Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Blvd.

Voices of the Spirit celebrates the sacred and devotional music traditions of Houston’s diverse immigrant communities through its annual concert series. Presented in partnership with Asia Society Texas Center, Voices of the Spirit III kicked off a six-month series of workshops and programs, titled Remembered, Regained: Immigrant Arts of Houston, which celebrated the rich artistic and cultural traditions residing in Houston’s immigrant communities. The program featured Sikh Kirtans, Sufi Songs, Nigerian Praise, Vietnamese Choral Music and Carnatic Ragas. Learn more about the participating artists below.

Zubair Al Awady is an internationally-recognized oud master who fled Iraq in the wake of the war and after many relocations was resettled as a refugee in Houston in 2009. His repertoire is wide-ranging and includes a broad knowledge of Sufi tradition.

Bhai Bhupinder, Singh Paras Ji and Bhai Charanjit Ji are the spiritual leaders and performers of the shabad kirtan for the Gurdwara Sahib of Southwest Houston. Bhai Paras Ji leads the kirtan, plays harmonium, and is accompanied on tabla by Bhai Charanjit Ji.

The Saint Martin Vietnamese Catholic Choir performs every Saturday for evening mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The choir has been active there for over 25 years, but many members date their participation in Houston choirs to the mid ’70s, when large populations of Vietnamese fled Southeast Asia and resettled in Houston.

Melloh Rhythm is a guitar player and vocalist who performed and toured for years with world music legend Femi Kuti. After settling in the city, he formed his own band that plays high-life, juju and soukous for the majority of Nigerian weddings and parties throughout Houston. He is the son of a Nigerian gospel musician and, as musical director for his church, he relies on these rhythms to infuse their evangelical praise music.

Kruthi and Keerthana Bhat are fourth generation musicians in the Carnatic tradition. The two sisters perform this style of devotional music, which is associated with southern India. Their mother and teacher, Rajarajeshwary Bhat, is a world renowned master and instructor in this genre of vocal music.


Telling the Immigrant Story, Panel Discussion

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Houston Museum of African American Culture, 4807 Caroline St.

This panel discussion featured informal narratives by Nicaraguan chef Michael Cordúa, Indian dancer Rathna Kumar and native born Nigerian Eugene Irikannu, all of whom shared the role of tradition in creating a sense of home in a new land.

Michael Cordúa is a Nicaraguan-born American restaurateur, entrepreneur, owner of Cordúa Restaurants and award-winning, self-taught chef. Cordúa is the owner and executive chef of six restaurants in the Houston, Texas area. He was the first to introduce Houston to Latin American cuisine that was not Mexican. Cordúa was born in Managua, Nicaragua and later moved to Houston. He graduated with a degree in economics and finance from Texas A&M University in 1980. Cordúa worked for a Houston shipping firm until it was liquidated in the late 1980s. After arriving in Houston, Cordúa taught himself to cook. He has said, “The whole reason I got into cooking was because I missed the foods from home.”

Rathna Kumar is a dancer, choreographer, musician and teacher. Anjali, the center for performing arts that she established in Houston in 1975, has trained over 2,000 students from all over the U.S. Rathna has received numerous honors, both for her excellence as a dancer and for her pioneering contributions as a teacher and promoter of classical performing arts. She is a recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and is the artistic director of Samskriti in Houston and a member of UNESCO's International Dance Council.

Eugene Irikannu is a native of Nigeria and a member of the Igbo ethnic group. He came to the United States in 1997 and moved to Houston for family and community. He and his wife married in 1999 and retain strong connections with family and friends back home. To ensure that his children know their mother culture and appreciate their current home, he sends them to Nigeria every summer to live with their grandparents. Eugene is an accountant and serves as finance manager for Houston Arts Alliance.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Blvd.

Sociologist Dr. Stephen Klineberg and author Claudia Kolker explored the impact and influence of immigrant communities on Houston and their contribution to the city’s cultural vitality.

Stephen L. Klineberg, Ph.D., a graduate of Haverford College near Philadelphia, received an M.A. in psychopathology from the University of Paris and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Harvard University. After teaching at Princeton, he joined Rice University's sociology department in 1972.

Co-author of The Present of Things Future: Explorations of Time in Human Experience, Dr. Klineberg has written numerous journal articles and research reports, and appears frequently on radio and television. He is also the founding co-director of Rice University’s Institute for Urban Research. Its mission is to provide a permanent home for the annual Houston Area Survey; stimulate other metropolitan research; sponsor educational programs; and engage in public outreach that advances understanding of pressing urban issues and fosters the development of more humane and sustainable cities.

In March 1982, he and his students initiated the annual Houston Area Survey, now in its 31st year of tracking the changes in the demographic patterns, life experiences, attitudes and beliefs of Harris County residents. No other city in America has been the focus of a long-term, longitudinal research program of this scope. None more clearly exemplifies the transformations that are refashioning the social and political landscape of urban America.

Claudia Kolker, a native of Washington, D.C., graduated from Harvard University. She worked for three years as a freelance writer based in San Salvador, covering the end of El Salvador's civil war and regional events including the U.S. invasion of Haiti. She joined the staff of the Houston Chronicle in 1996, as a city desk reporter specializing in immigrant affairs. In 1998 she joined the Los Angeles Times as the Houston bureau chief. In 2001, she became a freelance newspaper and magazine writer, writing award-winning stories from India and Pakistan. She returned to the Chronicle as a member of the editorial board in 2005.

Fascinated by the success of immigrant friends, Claudia Kolker embarked on a journey to uncover how their customs are being carried on and adapted by the second and third generations. Her efforts resulted in a book titled The Immigrant Advantage and is an adventurous exploration of little-known traditional wisdom and how in this nation of immigrants our lives can be enriched by the gifts of our newest arrivals. Her contribution extolls what’s known as “the immigrant paradox,” the growing evidence that immigrants, even those from poor or violence-wracked countries, tend to be both physically and mentally healthier than most native-born Americans.


Sunday, March 2, 2013
Children's Museum of Houston, 1500 Binz St.

This workshop explored the almost-universal tradition of songs used to soothe and comfort children at bedtime, featuring demonstrations and translations in Russian and Yiddish by Vadim Tunitsky; Cantonese songs by Dennis Kwok; and Congolese traditions by Bénédicte Ngumbu.

Cantor Vadim Tunitsky has been the musical leader of services at Temple Emanu El for over 20 years. A native of Russia, this extremely talented violinist studied in New York before moving to Houston. In addition to being recognized as one of Houston’s leading cantors, Tunitsky has recorded extensively and performed worldwide. Growing up as a Jew in Russia, he heard and learned lullabies in both Russian and Yiddish. He also sings Sephardic Jewish lullabies.

Bénédicte Ngumbu was born in Tanzania in 1988, after her parents moved there from the southwestern region of Congo. She has been a resident of Houston for the last six years. During that time she has performed as part of a church singing group known as the Mukule Family Singers. She has finished her associates degree at HCC and plans to continue her studies in music and religion. She is also a talented designer. Although her family’s native tongue is Kikongo, she only heard lullabies as a child in French, Lingala, Swahili and English and, therefore, sings selections from these traditions.

Dennis Kwok is a native of Hong Kong and grew up speaking Cantonese. He has lived in the U.S. since 1990 and in Houston for the last twelve years, where he works in the energy industry. Dennis started singing as a child, and since coming to Houston, he has been an active member of the Bodhi Choir at the Jade Buddha Temple off of Bellaire Boulevard.


An innovative project centered on the musical traditions of emerging Latino communities in Houston, ¡Uno, Dos, Tres!: The Many Musics of Houston’s Latino Community was a three-concert series focusing on the expanding cultural traditions of residents from Central America, the Caribbean and South America. The presentations each included a workshop and concert.

¡Uno, Dos, Tres!, Cuban artists: El Rectorado del Son
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Concert + Workshop, “The Polyrhythms of Cuban Son”
Guadalupe Park Plaza

The band El Rectorado del Son is a group of talented Houstonians who perform traditional Son Cubano, a style of music which originated in Cuba and gained worldwide popularity in the 1930s. Their repertoire mainly comprises styles of this era in Cuba including son bolero, chachachá, son montuno. Formed in 2007, El Rectorado del Son is known for their exuberant performances featuring classic instrumentation for the genre: bongos, bass, guitar or tres, vocals and trumpet.  The all-Cuban group also uses the traditional Son Cubano sound to arrange and compose original music similar to the standards by Ignacio Piñeiro, Sindo Garay, Lorenzo Hierrezuelo, Pedraza Ginori, Miguel Matamoros, Compay Segundo, to name a few. 

¡Uno, Dos, Tres!, Colombian artists: Son Vallenato
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Concert + Workshop, “The Stylistics of the Colombian Accordion”
MECA Pavilion Green

Founder and bandleader Victor Velasquez was an active vallenato musician in Colombia for 30 years. When he moved to Houston in 1986, he inevitably met other musicians hailing from various parts of Colombia. Together they formed an ensemble in 2002 called Orgullo Vallenato. A version of the group has since been renamed Son Vallenato and consists of eight members. Victor started out playing the guacharaca (a percussion instrument typical to Vallenato), but taught himself to play accordion by ear. At this count, Victor owns no less than eight accordions, which were all made in his homeland. The Colombian-style button accordion has a different sound from Tejano Conjunto or Mexican Norteño accordion music, in large part because the reeds of the instrument are tuned differently. Vallenato (which is named for its association with a valley region along the Caribbean coast and its origins in the city of Valledupar) is often paired with cumbia. Vallenato is considered the national music of Colombia and is recognized and enjoyed throughout all of Latin America. 

¡Uno, Dos, Tres!, Garifuna artists: Lumalali and Special Guests
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Concert + Workshop, “Punta y Paranda, Traditional Garifuna Rhythms”
Fifth Ward Jam

Lumalali is a Garifuna dance and music ensemble. Because of it exceedingly strong African roots, Garifuna music is quite different from that of the rest of Central America. In 2001, Garifuna music was proclaimed one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO, along with Garifuna language and dance. The most famous form of Garifuna music is punta, which is a very drum centered sound. In Houston, there is a significant Garifuna population and Honduran percussionist Fernando Mejia, who comes from a long tradition of Garifuna drummers, has formed Lumalali (meaning  the voice in Garifuna). Lumalali’s sound encapsulates the essence of Garifuna roots music. Every Sunday he and a group of dancers and musicians from the Garifuna community meet in parks in Fifth Ward and carry on the traditions of their home, adding to Houston’s expanding cultural landscape.


The Exhibition
Thursday, May 23 – Friday, July 12, 2013
Alliance Gallery

This exhibition celebrated continuity and change in one of the city’s larger immigrant communities. By exploring the artistry, festivities and ritual associated with Indian weddings in Houston, Anointed and Adorned captured the beauty of the old and accustomed alongside the appeal of the new and surprising. Featuring photography by Sohil Maknojia, video by Dylan Reid and audio by Rati Ramadas Girish, Anointed and Adorned told the story of the artistic traditions and practices that inform one of the most important rituals of Indian life.


July 16
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