CultureWorks Greater Houston

We maintain a strong focus on the arts and culture ecosystem, exploring research-tested capacity-building models that might be adapted for small and mid-sized groups.

In greater Houston, there are nearly 400 arts and culture organizations that have budgets under $1 million, and 68 percent of these have budgets under $250,000. These small and mid-sized groups often struggle to access the comprehensive management systems they need to truly flourish. Many are forced to address this challenge by cobbling these resources together, resulting in overextension of capacity and reduced creativity and productivity.

Houston Endowment maintains a strong focus on the arts and culture ecosystem, exploring research-tested capacity-building models that might be adapted for organizations like these. One such model, CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia (CW), is the country’s first non-profit arts-focused management commons for arts, culture and creative enterprise. CW’s commons model provides a platform for sharing all of the essential elements of nonprofit arts and management that lie “behind the curtain,” including key financial, legal, human resource and data management functions, among others. In Philadelphia, CW supports the core operations of 50 arts and heritage projects and organizations and more than 160 co-working members, representing a diverse range of practices and fields.

In 2016, Houston Endowment granted CW $300,000 to adapt and implement their management support and shared resources model to provide systemic support to Houston’s smaller arts organizations. Following a six-month research and due diligence process involving more than 100 local participants, CultureWorks Greater Houston (CWGH) is now in pre-formation phase and is on track to begin providing services in the first half of 2018.

Though there are inherent risks involved in replicating CW in Houston, we have reason to be optimistic. CW has a proven history and a strong track record of service to artists and cultural organizations in Philadelphia. Two key findings from the research phase are also promising: that the cultural ecology of Philadelphia and Houston share certain cultural conditions and motivating issues; and that 35 of the 40 Greater Houston organizations interviewed responded with strong interest in taking part in services and becoming a member. Houston Endowment believes CWGH will help provide effective and affordable systems resources for arts and culture organizations, leaving them with more time to pursue their true passion – the creation and sharing of their art.

Houston Endowment is delighted to have continued our support of CultureWorks in 2017. Please watch this page for updates.