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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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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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INNOVATIVE NEW ARTS PROGRAMS AWARDED NEW GRANT FROM HOUSTON ARTS ALLIANCE


February 19, 2016

HOUSTON (February 19, 2016) – A groundbreaking program that will teach Houston students how to design video games based on their own original stories, as well as a cost-saving, costume-sharing program for local theater companies, will take shape over the next two years thanks to a new grant from Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) that rewards innovation.

HAA has awarded the Jamail Innovation Grant—which provides funding to arts organizations for inventive ideas that expand artistic excellence and increase the organizations’ reach—to two recipients: Writers in the Schools, for a video game-based creative writing education program, and Main Street Theater, for a centralized costume warehouse. The organizations each will receive $50,000 over two years.

“This funding opportunity will provide recipients the opportunity to bring to life projects that might not otherwise have been realized,” said Richard Graber, Director of Grants, Programs + Services. “These organizations often have limited operating budgets and, therefore, limited freedom and flexibility. The Jamail Innovation Grant will help organizations think beyond those boundaries.”

Writers in the Schools, partnering with Houston-based Histrionix Learning Company as well as area schools, will incorporate gaming technology into their creative writing workshops by first training instructors in game design. Then students will use components from their own writing—such as character, setting, theme and plot—to design their own video games. They also will have the opportunity to publish their games online as part of a digital portfolio.

This program will be offered in local schools and community-based classrooms.

“The Jamail Innovation Grant from HAA validates our curiosity and advances us as leaders in the field of arts education,” said Robin Reagler, PhD, WITS executive director. “By pairing creative writing and game design, WITS introduces students and teachers to the pleasure and power of 21st century literacies. Students become creators versus consumers of digital media through the magic of their stories.”

Main Street Theater, alongside a number of local theaters, will create a one-stop costume storage facility for numerous theatre companies to share. Often, smaller theater companies borrow costumes from other groups and coordinating access can be challenging, said executive artistic director Rebecca Udden.

“Having everybody's stock in one storage facility will save time and money — the designers won't have to run from place to place, and everyone will have access to all the stock,” Udden said. “It seems like a small thing, but it will be huge to the folks producing theater all over Houston. The theater companies are very excited about collaborating on this costume shop, and we will work very hard to make this successful.”
Other companies partnering with Main Street Theater in this project include The Ensemble Theatre, Theater LaB Houston, Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company, Stark Naked Theatre Company, The Catastrophic Theatre and Classical Theatre Company. Additional theater companies also are likely to participate, Udden said.

The Jamail Innovation Grant encourages arts organizations to do what they do best—problem solve. Funded projects are expected to address complex challenges creatively, departing from traditional practices while still aligning with the organization’s mission and vision.

“We thank Randall Jamail for his vision and commitment to encouraging Houston’s arts sector to stretch its artistic and organizational visions with this grant,” said HAA President + CEO Jonathon Glus. “We hope these grants set a new standard for grant-making in Houston.”

The goal is to increase the organization’s reach, impact and accessibility through strategic organization partnerships between arts organizations or with organizations outside the cultural sector.

To be eligible for the grant, organizations had to be current recipients of HAA’s General Operating Support, General Operating Support Expansion or Resident Incubator programs. Grantees had to be based in Houston, but partnering entities could be anywhere in the United States or abroad.

Grant panelists were Tracie Hall, deputy commissioner for arts and creative industries for the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events; Elizabeth Love, senior program officer for environment, health, arts and culture for Houston Endowment; Thaddeus Squire, founder and managing director for CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia; and Neville Vakharia, assistant professor and research director for Drexel University’s Arts Administration Graduate Program.

For more information about HAA’s grant programs, visit houstonartsalliance.com/grants.

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