Building a Strong Arts Ecosystem

Houston Endowment Invests Strategically to Strengthen the Arts and Culture Ecosystem

Houston Endowment approved $8.5 million in new grants in 2016 to support a vibrant and diverse arts ecosystem and rich cultural experiences across the region

Houston Endowment has provided strategic support for the arts in greater Houston for nearly eighty years. Strong civic assets – including a thriving arts and culture ecosystem – are a critical component of our vision of a vibrant community where all residents can thrive.

We believe that a healthy arts ecosystem is made up of a rich variety of arts organizations, which collectively express our shared human experiences and reflect the rich cultural tapestry of our diverse community.

In 2016, Houston Endowment approved $8.5 million in new funding to arts and culture organizations across the ecosytem. The foundation provides grants to arts organizations to support capacity building, transformative projects and, in some cases, general operations. We recognize that arts is a dynamic space with evolving needs, and we continually assess the landscape to understand how our funding can have the greatest impact.

The organizations below represent a sample of grants approved in 2016 to build the strength and vibrancy of greater Houston’s arts ecosystem and create opportunities for all to engage in diverse arts and culture experiences. For a complete list of arts and cultural organizations that received grants in 2016, click here: New Arts and Culture Grants Approved in 2016

Arts Access Initiative (AAI) – The AAI is Houston’s action plan for ensuring equitable arts access for every K-8 student in public schools, beginning with Houston Independent School District (HISD). The collective impact model includes 45 arts and cultural organizations, HISD leaders, the City of Houston, local foundations and the Kennedy Center through the Any Given Child program. In 2015, Houston Endowment provided funding to support AAI’s pilot phase, during which the program has expanded to serve 25 schools. In 2016, Houston Endowment awarded an additional 2-year, $250,000 grant to help AAI build capacity to reach more students across Houston.

Da Camera Society of Texas – Da Camera offers a wide array of classical and jazz music through multiple performances throughout the year. The organization maintains a deep commitment to innovation as well as arts education: Da Camera is a founding arts partner member of Arts Access Initiative and plays a leadership role in the pilot phase of the project. Houston Endowment awarded a 3-year, $225,000 grant to support their operations.

Diverse Works – Diverse Works integrates visual, performing and literary art forms with social, political and cultural themes. Following their move to the Houston Endowment-supported MATCH, Diverse Works is focused on greater public engagement and the launch of a youth arts leadership program to serve under-resourced high school students. Houston Endowment awarded a 2-year, $150,000 grant toward these efforts.

Gulf Coast Journal – A competitive submission print journal, Gulf Coast seeks to present and celebrate contemporary literature and art of the region. The organization creates joint programs with other organizations such as Houston Public Library and Project Row Houses to expand its reach, and recently launched a free, web-based journal that offers original work beyond its print journal. Houston Endowment awarded a 3-year, $60,000 grant to support its operations.

Heritage Society – The Heritage Society (THS) seeks to enliven history and enrich the public’s understanding of the factors that contributed to Houston’s growth and development. THS maintains 10 city-owned historic structures and a museum gallery in downtown Houston. In addition to a one-year, $75,000 grant to support THS’s operations, Houston Endowment awarded THS a $100,000 grant for research, planning and execution expenses to support THS’ merger with Houston Arts and Media, providing both organizations greater financial stability and a broader platform for championing local heritage and preservation efforts.

Houston Ballet – The Houston Ballet plays a critical role in the local dance landscape, producing 75 to 80 performances per year, engaging in community programs and arts education, and providing high-quality dance training. Houston Endowment awarded Houston Ballet a 2-year, $200,000 grant to support its operations.

Houston Metropolitan Dance Center (METdance) – METdance offers affordable classes for children and adults as well as presents its repertory company in performances throughout Houston. METdance joined the Art Access Initiative in 2016 to bolster its in-school arts education program. Houston Endowment awarded a METdance 2-year, $150,000 grant to support its efforts to bring dance to a wider audience.

Main Street Theater – Main Street Theater (MST) offers theater field trips, after-school and summer classes, and during-school workshops and residencies that deliver arts-integrated curricula. American Theater Magazine recognized MST this year as one of the top 20 theaters in the country, and the only one in Houston, for its youth programming. Houston Endowment awarded MST a 3-year, $265,000 grant to support MST’s operations and build its capacity to maintain financial health.

Menil Foundation – The Menil, one of Houston’s most popular art museums, continues to expand its diverse offerings and improve visitor experience. Houston Endowment awarded a $1 million grant to support the completion of the Menil Drawing Institute, the first free-standing museum building in the U.S. solely dedicated to the exhibition, study, conservation and storage of modern and contemporary drawings.

Project Row Houses – Project Row Houses (PRH) seeks to transform and sustain the northern Third Ward neighborhood by demonstrating the social role of art in neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, community service and youth education. Houston Endowment awarded PRH a 2-year, $160,000 grant to support the implementation of its current strategic plan.

Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) – SPA presents a broad selection of performing artists and companies from around the world to complement Houston’s own theater, dance and music offerings. In operation since 1966, SPA continues to broaden its offerings to reflect the diversity of greater Houston audiences and strengthen its education and community engagement efforts. Houston Endowment awarded a 2-year, $200K grant to support SPA’s operations.