Houston’s Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs Awards Over $90K in Grants to Creatives & Nonprofits

by Jessica Fuentes January 23, 2023

The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) has awarded over $90,000 in grants to 19 individuals and nonprofit organizations through its Neighborhood Cultural Destinations and Let Creativity Happen grant initiatives. Both granting programs are administered through Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) and funded through a portion of the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax.

A photograph of large-scale artworks suspended in the air .

Work by Citys Initiative Grant recipient Justin Earl Grant

The Neighborhood Cultural Destinations grant category is a part of MOCA’s City Initiative (CI) grant program, which was launched in 2021 to support cultural activations in neighborhoods that serve to both strengthen communities and connect tourists to communities that make Houston unique. According to a 2021 press release announcing the CI program, projects selected for funding through this grant category highlight and present cultural heritage and, “should incorporate community voices, knowledge, and interest.”

In a press release announcing this year’s Neighborhood Cultural Destinations grant recipients, Mayor Sylvester Turner stated, “The grantees this quarter solidify our city’s image as an Arts City. We are not just a Space City or Bayou City, but because of the incredible amount of talent and diverse types of arts that can be found and supported by the city, we are also an Arts City.”

Seven visual and performing arts projects have received a total of $62,500 in grants. The selected projects will take place in neighborhoods across the city. Learn more about each of the funded projects below, via descriptions provided by MOCA.

A photograph of an exhibition featuring small and medium sized works displayed on white gallery walls.

Let Creativity Happen! Grant Recipient Erica Lee

According to the HAA website, the Let Creativity Happen grant, “provides funds of up to $2,500 for specific projects that amplify artistic creativity and vision taking place in the city of Houston.” This application is available annually in four cycles. In the most recent cycle of awards, MOCA has granted 12 individuals and nonprofits a total of $30,000 to support art programs accessible via online-only platforms. Among the recipients are visual, performing, and literary arts projects.

Mayor Sylvester Turner remarked, “I congratulate all the grantees and wish them well on their projects. I am proud of the talent diversity our grantees have and their willingness to share their talents with Houstonians and the world.” 

Read about the selected projects below, via descriptions provided by MOCA.

Neighborhood Cultural Destinations Grant Recipients

By Rivkah French

Emulsion is a new immersive Virtual Reality dance film by Rivkah French that explores the beauty and intimacy of relationships. By shooting and presenting this film with VR technology, Emulsion brings the viewer into the experience of moving with the dancers, rather than viewing them from a distance. Emulsion will be presented in conjunction with neighborhood-focused filmmaking workshops at multiple venues across the 5th Ward, culminating in a public showing of the participants’ self-made films. 

A photograph of a man speaking to a group that is out of sight of the camera. The man stands amongst colorful sculptural artworks.

City’s Initiative Grant Recipient C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services

The C-STEM Little Library Free WiFi Public Art Project
By C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services

The C-STEM Little Library Free WiFi Public Art Project offers free books to increase STEM literacy and awareness of health/wellness, bridges the digital divide by providing access to the Internet of Things (IoT), beautifies the community, increases usage of underutilized pocket spaces in the community, and creates safer neighborhoods.

Christmas in the 4 4
By God’s Grace Community Church: 

The Christmas in the 4 4 is a formal event that showcases national artists as they perform Christmas selections. This event is scheduled the third week in December every year on a Friday night at 7 PM. It is held at God’s Grace Community Church, 9944 West Montgomery Road. After the concert, a reception is held in the fellowship hall. 

Hispanic Alliance For Performing And Audiovisual Arts

HAAPA will honor the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery through a play. The play will bring to the visual plane the philosophy explored in the book and promote its knowledge to new generations of artists and audiences, as well as bridge the community to the artistic expressions of Latinos.

Justin Grant

To celebrate the line as an essential conceptual element in the visual arts, a year of exhibitions and events is planned that includes a program of educational activities for the community and students. The activities will take place in Sabine Street Studios, part of the Sawyer Yards located in the established Arts District Houston. The programs coincide with the formation of a new exhibition space called East Corridor Gallery, or ECG, designated exclusively for the exhibition of local artists and creatives whose work emphasizes the practical and conceptual elements of the line and its many facets. 

By Andrew Davis

On June 18, 2023 the second installment of SOLEVISION, SOLEVISION II, will occur at Emancipation Park (venue subject to change). The hybrid on-site & digital performance will highlight and draw from conversations held between Houston-based artists Andrew ‘TAME, The Aspiring Me’ Davis, Kazembe “DJ Elevated” Gray & Ariel Bounds. The conversations will expand upon the narrative of the initial SOLEVISION, self-perception, and world reflection, along with the proximity of Juneteenth as it relates to the artists; the culmination of the conversations will be expressed through live performance, mixed media and set design.

Segundo Barrio Children’s Chorus

Segundo Barrio Children’s Chorus is being established as Houston’s first bi-lingual children’s choir, whose mission is to enrich the lives of children and families through transformative performance opportunities which engage residents, build communities, and share with visitors the unique cultural identity of Second Ward/East End. This pilot-project targets children from immigrant and Spanish-speaking households ages 4-12, offering bi-lingual mentoring and access to the Arts, including music/vocal instruction. By utilizing a unique, culturally-informed curriculum, the choir aims to reduce drop-out rates, strengthen families, and foster pride in community for residents and visitors through appearances at community and city-wide public events. 

Let Creativity Happen Grant Recipients

Well-Tempered Clavier 300th Anniversary Celebration

Ars Lyrica Houston (ALH) requests funding for a public celebration on Sunday, January 15, 2023, for the completion of its Well-Tempered Clavier video recording project. The event will feature a live Zoom panel and the premiere of the complete Well-Tempered Clavier playlist, publicly available online, with a demonstration of the myriad of public resources available to the public through the project.

Friends on Film (& other Creative Mischief)
By Friends of River Oaks Theatre  

The River Oaks Theater is reopening. With the help and partnership of community-based non-profit Friends of River Oaks Theatre, it will be able to operate as a cinema-centric Art House and community arts center. In addition to programming and marketing, Friends is also working on producing a virtual platform to present programs, panels, workshops, and monthly podcasts. The monthly podcast titled FRIENDS ON FILM, AND OTHER CREATIVE MISCHIEF will have program-related guests, arts program announcements, reviews, cinema History, interviews, and readings.

Kidnapping the Muse
By Hispanic Alliance For Performing And Audiovisual Arts  

The project is based on 8 sessions of online webinars where participants will be trained in the basic technique of script writing and creating the structure of storytelling. Each session is 2 hours, starting with the creation of the character, timeline, analyzing and identifying each of the parts that make the structure of the script; establishing the differences between the literary script and the technical script and its particularities for the different practical fields and ending with the  actantial diagram, and character relationship scheme.

A photograph of four bass instrumentalists playing for a large crowd of seated children.

Let Creativity Happen! Grant Recipient Houston Brass Quintet Inc.

HBQ Goes BlueGrass
By Houston Brass Quintet Inc.

HBQ Goes BlueGrass features a collaboration with Bluegrass band, the Laughing Lizards. This collaboration celebrates Appalachian roots with original arrangements like “Dueling Banjos” and “San Antonio Rose.” This three-part concert series, happening alongside rodeo season, will be hosted in spaces like Levy Park and Archway Gallery.

Fly Byes
By Tami Moschioni

Fly Byes is a short film blending Tami Moschioni’s photomontages of cosmic train graffiti, and nature, with live performance clips from Houston’s Bayou City Jazz & Blues Scene in 2023. Fly Byes premieres at the Art Car Museum in October 2023 from 6 pm to 9 pm. It is followed by a dynamic, live blues music performance featuring John Del Toro Richardson. Fly Byes remains on display at the Art Car Museum on weekends through Fall 2023. Join us in celebrating and dancing to the moves of Train Graffiti Art and Texas Blues everyone can use! Fly Byes will be available on YouTube for viewing December 2023.

Banco and Friends
By Darian Gernand

Banco and Friends is an evening designed and led by a POC Queer woman to uplift female artists, DJs, and creatives. It is created to give them an opportunity to showcase their talents and messages behind their art during a packed showcase in downtown Houston. It calls out diverse sounds and systems to Houston from all over the country, and encourages growth and camaraderie among artists, while also building new communities of diverse people with an emphasis on mental health. Join us for a new format event including live performances and an artist panel reflecting on mental health and the creation of art.

Piece for 50 Pianos
By Thomas Helton

Thomas Helton presents a concert for 50 Pianos at Houston Piano Company in the Heights. The piece will be written to allow members of the Houston community  as well as non-piano playing musicians to participate.

Book Arts of Houston
By Erica Lee

Book Arts of Houston uncovers and promotes the legacy of Houston artists working in the artist book medium. Opening February 2023, this exhibition will be the inaugural exhibition at The Printing Museum’s new facilities.

Anthony Bob Original Composition & Performance
By Anthony Bob

Anthony will compose an original piece of music to accompany the four-part arrangement by Claude Debussy entitled Children’s Corner. This work sets the tone of a dreamlike sequence that narrates memories of his childhood in Houston’s Fifth Ward. This artistic pursuit will reconstruct memories that are characteristically rewritten in dreams, floating between real imagery in the form of a projected and displayed photo-based installation and synthetic memory in the form of music. The curated images will conjure evocative and fleeting thoughts and will  take place at the Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) on January 12 at 6 pm.

CelloFest Houston
By Eunghee Cho

The inaugural CelloFest Houston takes place February 5-6, 2023 at venues across University of Houston’s Moores School of Music campus. CelloFest Houston brings together master cellists and young cellists from the Greater Houston area to collaborate in two concerts that celebrate the cello, its music, and musicians.

How to finish an album with TAME, The Aspiring Me
By Andrew Davis

How to finish an album with TAME, The Aspiring Me is a site-specific week long open studio performance art series at vintage store, Options (subject to change), in which Houston based artist & musician, Andrew ‘TAME, The Aspiring Me’ Davis, brings guests into the process of completing a studio album. Open studio visits on January 8-15, 2023  from noon-4pm seek to engage guests by having them partake in the recording & editing process, while the evening programming engages through performance art. The community will be able to engage on site as well as virtually through the artist focused live-stream partner platform ECHIO.

Casket Ready
By Leigh Callaway

Over the next 6 months, Leigh Callaway will build a series of editorial photographic works that show the dynamic economic equality, and fashionable greatness of the black community.


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Justin Earl Grant January 24, 2023 - 23:41

Thank you Glasstire for all your continuous enrichment of Texas Arts.

Let it be known, that my City Initiative Grant also encompasses and Open Call for exhibitions, open to artists and creatives within the Houston area. So if anyone who’s work deals with the “line” in any and all of it’s forms and interpretations, I recommend you to check out this link, read the bases, and apply!


PS. I believe you have the captions of the two photos switched. My work is actually the drawings suspended on sheet metal, not the books strung on the wall, although they are very similar.

Glasstire January 25, 2023 - 09:18

Thank you for the note and for the correction, Justin!


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