Five Houston artists have been awarded grants by the city as part of a new pilot program to highlight the art and culture of some of Houston's most overlooked neighborhoods.
The program, called Neighborhood Storytellers, will focus on Acres Homes, Gulfton, Near Northside, Second Ward, and Third Ward. Those districts are part of an additional pilot program called Complete Communities, an initiative that aims to bring resources to culturally-rich neighborhoods that have been historically under-resourced.
The city partnered with the Houston Arts Alliance and organizations in each neighborhood to choose the grant recipients. In total, $40,000 will be awarded to the storytellers to help highlight businesses, residents, and art in each community. The money comes from the city's Hotel Occupancy Tax.
Debbie McNulty, director of the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, says the program was conceived as a way to showcase what those neighborhoods have to offer, both to residents and to tourists.
"How do we make sure cultural life is being supported in those communities?" she asks.
The city put out a call for proposals, then worked with organizations from each neighborhood, like the Third Ward Community Cloth Cooperative, to select the artists.
One of those artists is Ulavia Dilworth, a lifelong resident of northside neighborhood Acres Homes. Dilworth, who is a screenwriter, has been working on her first film for more than five years, a documentary about the history of her neighborhood. A clip from her documentary went viral on Facebook, receiving about 30,000 views. A stranger messaged her and encouraged her to apply for the grant.
The money, she says, will allow her to hire a filmmaker and an experienced editor for the movie. Previously, she was planning to pay for these services out of pocket. Ultimately, she wants to host a screening for the film, and maybe one day see it on Netflix.
"I want the world to see it," she says. "I want the world to know about this black community."
Jose Monterrosa's project will focus on the Second Ward. A writer and photographer, Monterrosa wants to document a handful of art projects in the East End for the community's website, EastEndHouston.com.
"For many years, East End was known as a scary place," he says. "It's a different place now. We want to showcase the flavor of the neighborhood. We want people to know that East End is a cultural district."
Monterrosa's goal is to showcase one story a month on the website. The grant will allow him to hire a team, and to take time off from his regular job to work on the project.
"I've seen all the love that people have put into that community," he says. "I've seen the changes. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to share that."