Houston Artists Discuss City Cultural Plan

In it’s 70-plus year history, the El Dorado Ballroom in Houston’s Third Ward has seen and heard some of the world’s most compelling artistry. In it’s heyday the venue played host to Musical greats like Arnett Cobb, Etta James and Ray Charles.

But last weekend, the historic ballroom was also the scene for an important meeting on Houston’s artistic future, as artists and administrators from across the region gathered there to discuss the City’s expansive new Cultural Plan.

Named the Houston Artist Town Hall, the gathering was organized and moderated by the Fresh Arts Coalition, whose Executive Director Jenni Rebecca Stephenson moderated the discussion.  The Town Hall was not an official city event, but Minette Boesel from the Houston Cultural Affairs Office was on hand to hear the discussions.

Though the artists in attendance formed an immensely diverse crowd, they all shared at least two things in common– a dedication to the area’s arts scene and intimate knowledge of what could be improved.  As Stephenson noted in her opening comments, the meeting was arranged so artists themselves would have a chance to provide input on the city’s Cultural Plan.

Among the group of almost 200 artists, some common themes seemed to emerge…

— Houston needs a more comprehensive jobs and funding database for arts projects. 

Better access equity for the many diverse arts groups, and artists living outside of a select few neighborhoods. 

More transparency, less bureaucracy from municipal funding sources. 

— Stronger professional connections between the artists community and corporate entities.

— City Council Members should form Artist advisory boards by district for more direct, consistent input. 

Perennial issues like artist compensation and a lack of affordable housing were big players in the discussion as well.

On the whole, the event was quite productive, and gave voice to important issues that should be part of any Cultural Plan for the city.  But whatever moves forward under the Parker administration at this point is far from a guarantee. Any goals that Mayor Parker sets for Houston’s artistic community will be honored, improved upon or destroyed by Houston’s next Mayor, City Controller and City Council.  Which means that 2015 is an important time for Houston’s creative community to become engaged with this year’s elections.  If citizens want the arts to be strong in Houston, they need to show those preferences with their voices and their votes this year. 


Artists gather at the Houston Artist Town Hall, held May 2nd in the El Dorado Ballroom. 

Houston Public Media’s Amy Bishop also covered the event.

5 thoughts on “Houston Artists Discuss City Cultural Plan”

  1. Thank you for your reporting on this, Texas Leftist, but apart from reporting straight facts, what are your thoughts on these demands (or requests)?

    Do you agree? Are they reasonable? Any glaring omissions?

    You’re playing this awful safe — put some skin in the game, already — especially if you’re going to stake out a name so bold as “Texas Leftist.”

  2. …I mean, is “Texas Leftist” agreeing that there needs to be a cozier relationship between “the artists community and corporate entities” — especially considering that the largest local “corporate entities” are oil and gas companies violating human rights across the globe as they promote fossil fuel dependence and environmental destruction?

    Seriously — you’re going to report that without comment and call yourself “Texas Leftist?”


    1. On an issue such as this one, I feel it’s important to state the facts of the situation so that others can assess them and make informed decisions. But to your question, my opinion is that there should certainly be stronger ties between Houston’s artistic community and the private sector, and the city (which already has existing ties to both) seems a natural facilitator to foster those relationships. Creating new avenues for artist compensation is in no way a compromise of one’s values.

      1. “Creating new avenues for artist compensation is in no way a compromise of one’s values.”

        Could not disagree more.

        If you are not explicitly OR implicitly against the status quo, then you are at best FOR the status quo — as an artist or a journalist or whatever.

  3. I’m a little late reading this, but was looking at coverage from the mayoral candidates arts & culture forum this week, so seeing this was helpful. Houston Public Media has what appear to be written responses (as opposed to transcripts, or if they are transcripts, then all of our candidates can speak in full sentences and what are the odds of that!) from this week. Sylvester Turner is the only candidate who, in the written response, refers to raising the minimum wage. He doesn’t say to what – certainly doesn’t mention $15 – but that is a critical issue affecting artists that goes hand in hand with affordable housing. I’m going to look into that more – I haven’t started paying close enough attention yet to who is saying exactly what. Thanks for documenting this event.

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