The Arts Will Go On

Houston Artist Relief Funds Kick into High Gear

Organizations of all sizes and scopes are working together to assist Bayou City artists during the coronavirus pandemic.

By Emma Schkloven April 15, 2020

Never count the arts out. On Tuesday, the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs announced it is putting $25,000 into a relief fund for Houston artists who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Artists and the cultural community are deeply woven into the fabric of Houston—they give our city its soul," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in the release.

We took a look at the fund and broke down what it is, what other programs are out there, and why all of this matters. 

What it is

Designed to help artists and arts workers who have lost wages and business opportunities due to the pandemic, the Greater Houston Area Arts Relief Fund was launched on April 1 and is operating through the Houston Arts Alliance, which seeded the initial fund.  

In total, 13 organizations are partnering on the initiative, which has raised almost 32 percent of its $100,000 goal. The funds will then be distributed to eligible artists and arts workers in $1,000 grants.

The Greater Houston Area Arts Relief Fund is just the first of several upcoming opportunities “to accelerate art projects in response to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 emergency,” according to the release.

"Artists and arts workers are uniquely able to help Houston by providing entertainment, respite, and a kind of therapy," said Debbie McNulty, director of the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, in the statement. "The city needs their creativity now more than ever, and they need our help.”

Other programs

This isn’t the only fund helping Houston area artists during the current crisis. The Idea Fund’s Emergency Relief Grant—part of the organization’s larger regranting program administered by local nonprofits DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses—started accepting applications on April 13. The new Houston Music Foundation is raising funds for Bayou City musicians, as is the state government.

Why this all matters

A March survey conducted by HAA revealed almost $50 million in real and anticipated losses for Houston’s arts community, which has seen a cancellation of at least 75 percent of artists’ contracts. On top of that, more than 5,600 full-time nonprofits are projected to lose their jobs.

Lauren Hainley, program manager of disaster services, told Houstonia in an email that overall, HAA is projecting almost $200 million economic impact on the arts, adding that HAA has received assistance requests totaling $250,000 in the last 10 days.

“Our organizations were the first to start closing with the shutdown of mass gatherings,” she wrote. “Our workers have been without assistance for almost two months. With the help of the mayor, we have raised a little over $50,000, but this is nowhere near enough to help.”

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