Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs Releases Equity Review of its Art Collection

by Christopher Blay October 6, 2020

Office of Cultural Affairs Emergency Response Program online May 18 2020Last week the Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) released its Equity Review, which looks at the demographics of artists represented in Houston’s public art collection. MOCA’s review, released in its Annual Civic Art Report to Mayor and City Council, includes statistics on gender, race/ethnicity, and women of color within the city’s collection of 677 works of art.

In the self-reported metric of inclusion (the first of its kind based on a city’s art collection), MOCA found that more than two-thirds of the art in the collection was created by white artists (68.5%), 6.6% by Black or African artists, 5.2% by Hispanic or Latino artists, 4.4% Asian artists, and a sliver of a percentage (.01%) representing work by a First Nations artist. No Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders are represented in the collection.

Artist Representation by Race/Ethnicity, collection-wide

Artist representation by race/ethnicity, in the City of Houston Civic Art Collection

*Percentage reflects representation out of 677 artworks. **An artwork may be the work of a pair of artists (M/F, different ethnicities) and therefore represent multiple identities, so percentage exceeds 100% out of 677 artworks.

Population demographic percentages of Houston are not reflected in the Houston Civic Art Collection; all of the non-white groups are underrepresented. The Hispanic/Latino population of Houston, for example, which the City data shows to be 44.8%, is represented by 35 unique artworks in the collection, at 5.2% of the total.

“Houston continues to lead the way when it comes to fairness and representation for our artist community,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I commend MOCA for taking a hard look at the data. Only 17 women who are Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) have artworks in the City’s Collection. We cannot ignore this data or wait to make the changes that will distribute opportunity equitably.”

City of Houston's Civic Art Collection Equity graphic.

“We wanted to know how well opportunity was being distributed amongst our artists when it comes to our city’s cultural equity,” says Debbie McNulty, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. “The data will ultimately help us understand where we are and how we can change course for a more inclusive and diverse Civic Art Collection for the City of Houston.”

MOCA announced a commitment to immediate and long-term actions with its collaborating organization, Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). HAA manages the artist selection process for commissions and acquisitions.

Immediate actions proposed include public release of its findings regarding equity, and providing the information to all future artist selection panels. In the long-term, MOCA states that it will continue ongoing reporting of demographic statistics within the Annual Civic Art Report, engage HAA’s Civic Art Committee, and develop pathways for underrepresented artists.

In other HAA and MOCA news Glasstire has covered recently: Over the past few weeks a group called Arts Accountability Houston (AAH) has demanded that HAA and MOCA “halt the current funding structure for arts grantmaking based on projected HOT funds and work towards immediately implementing one with guaranteed allocations for artists without any interruption in future arts funding awards and amounts,” among other demands. A complete statement from MOCA in response is included in Glasstire’s news report on the call from AAH.

For more about The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and COVID-19 related emergency funds, please go here.


Houston Arts Alliance is a local arts, and culture organization whose principle work is to implement the City of Houston’s vision, values, and goals for its arts grantmaking and civic art investments. HAA’s work is conducted through contracts with the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs implements the City’s Arts and Cultural Plan with a vision to foster an environment in which art and culture flourish for the sharing and benefit of all residents and visitors. It highlights the local artist workforce through exhibitions in historic City Hall and oversees contracts for grants and cultural services and the City’s Civic Art Program. MOCA facilitates temporary art, art donations to the City Collection, community murals and special projects.


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Emily T October 6, 2020 - 22:47

Check out the stats on minorities and people of color in the directors positions at MOCA and Aviation art within the City of H. Answer, both directors are Caucasians.


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