Houston’s arts scene has been nothing short of decimated due to the coronavirus pandemic. Myriad groups such as Houston Grand Opera and Alley Theatre have had to cut budgets drastically and shorten seasons. Meanwhile, events such as the Bayou City Arts Festival have had to pivot to a virtual experience in order to survive.
To the rescue comes Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston City Council, who have announced $2 million in relief funding for creative groups facing economic challenges due to COVID-19.
Funding for the City of Houston CARES Act Program for Arts and Culture includes $2 million from the City's Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, according to a press release.
The new program is open to the 1,236 creative businesses previously vetted for grants from the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) that have suffered business losses due to the pandemic.
Individual artists will be eligible to apply for a grant up to $1,000. Nonprofit organizations will be eligible for up to $15,000 in relief funding.
To initiate the process, MOCA will utilize its long time arts services provider, Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), to begin accepting, processing, and ranking applications.
HAA will distribute the funds in September and will handle all administrative duties by completing reports and documentation ahead of the federal deadline in December, per a release. HAA will send out notifications to the 1,236 applicants on Monday, August 24.
“The arts and cultural sectors have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and we need everyone to keep fighting to survive and be part of the city's recovery,” said Turner, in a statement. “Houston would not be the vibrant city that it is without the many artists and organizations serving our community and making it a cultural destination like no other.”
For some perspective: Before the pandemic struck, Houston's nonprofit cultural sector was a $1.1 billion industry, employing more than 25,000 locals. Houston's arts and cultural attractions typically have 11 million to 16 million visitors annually.
City of Houston data notes that event-related spending is pumped into restaurants, parking garages, hotels, and retail stores, along with the $57 million in local government tax revenues — that are also being curtailed by the pandemic.