Behind every successful artist, there is a network of people, and places that have paved the way for their success. Those who champion great art don’t often get the recognition they deserve, and all too often, their role is much more important than people may ever realize. In recent years, Houston has seen unprecedented growth and prestige in the city arts scene, due in no small part to a municipal government which has worked to foster that growth. At the helm of that government, Houston Mayor Annise Parker received a special accolade for innovative approach to the city’s arts scene. Here’s more from a City of Houston Press release…
For 17 years as a council member, controller and now Mayor of Houston, Mayor Parker has been an avid supporter of the arts. As a council member she shepherded a civic art ordinance that sets aside 1.75% of qualifying capital improvement projects. She introduced and passed an ordinance to use the Hotel Occupancy Tax to provide an unprecedented amount of funding—up to $86 million over 5 years —for arts and cultural organizations and programming. Working with her Office of Cultural Affairs, Mayor Parker has launched a large public engagement and planning process to develop a vision, goals and objectives for the future of arts and culture in Houston. Additionally, Mayor Parker nominated “Cultural Districts,” representing Houston’s Museum District, Theater District, Midtown Arts District and others, which have successfully been designated by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Through the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the Mayor has introduced economic tools to help further the enhancement of cultural institutions including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. In partnership with the Houston Arts Alliance, new civic artworks have been commissioned, purchased or are underway. And Mayor Parker is a poet and writer herself; in 2013, she named Houston’s first poet laureate.
“Arts and culture contribute to our quality of life and are an expression of the soul of a city,” remarked Mayor Parker. “Houston prides itself on being the most diverse city in the nation. Our cultural communities are a big part of that. Through public policy and funding opportunities, we are working hard to grow and expand arts and culture projects in our City. I want to thank you for this award. It is truly humbling to have our efforts recognized.”
“During her tenure, Mayor Parker has put the arts front and center in her agenda,” stated Jonathon Glus, president and CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance. “Mayor Parker has worked tirelessly to integrate the arts into the fabric of City Hall—from shepherding greater investment in cultural facilities to launching the city’s first cultural plan in more than 20 years. She continually makes the case for continued corporate leadership in the arts, culture, and creative economies and works to extend the impact of the arts throughout our expansive city.”
“Every year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes the exemplary efforts of local leaders who believe as much as we do that the arts are the heart of our society,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Arts and culture help shape a city’s quality of life, but mayors also understand the connection between the arts and business and the arts’ impact on the local economy.”
Ask any of the over 220 artists, cultural groups and organizations that receive annual grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, and they will let you know how vital a supportive municipal government has been to their success.
In her short remarks receiving the award, Parker said that she views arts and culture as “part of the infrastructure of a city”. Much the same way that our communities must have roads to transport people from point A to point B, and we must have clean water to drink, the arts provide an invaluable outlet for creativity and expression. The arts can be the tie that binds otherwise disparate populations, but can also lay the groundwork for commonality and compromise when we are faced with substantive problems to solve. If there is one portion of her legacy that Annise Parker can be proud of, it will surely be that she was a champion of Houston art and culture. Her fellow Mayors across the country have taken notice too.