vibrantly colored

Houston BIPOC arts organizations receive unprecedented $2 million grant

Houston BIPOC arts organizations receive unprecedented $2M grant

Sixto Wagan Houston BANF
Houston arts veteran Sixto Wagan calls this $2 million gift "historic." Photo by Trish Badger

As a dynamic professional traversing Houston's myriad arts worlds, Sixto Wagan has enjoyed a front-row seat in witnessing the evolution of the city’s cultural growth.

Now, the veteran of some of Houston’s most prestigious arts purveyors is overseeing a game-changing infusion of cash to arts groups centered on people of color.

The Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) Arts Network and Fund (BANF) has announced $2 million to organizations and fiscally sponsored artist collectives in Greater Houston’s Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, and other communities of color. The $2 million, which will be awarded by the end of 2021, represents a (current) $12.4 million initiative that will provide funding over five years to BIPOC arts communities, per a press release.

“This historic first round of funding is the beginning of a new story and a new way of how we recognize BIPOC arts communities in Greater Houston,” Wagan, BANF Houston’s project director, tells CultureMap. “Our BIPOC arts communities have demonstrated decades of leadership with work that has shaped this country’s culture and history despite being excluded from resources, funding streams, recognition and representation.”

Applications will be accepted now through October 22 at 5 pm. A website hosting the grant opportunity guidelines, including the specific set of eligibility requirements, as well as a link to the application submission portal, can be found here

Virtual grant information sessions will be hosted on September 29 at noon CST and October 7 at 9:30 am CST. Interested applicants should register to attend at this link.

Why is this new allotment so critical? Data provided by BANF reveals that Houston arts organizations and artist collectives from multicultural communities are “excluded from philanthropy in Houston.” To wit, according to BANF, 90 percent of gifted monies go to 27 white-led organizations, while only seven percent of said public funding for the arts goes to Latino organizations.

“In the face of that and being more vulnerable to climate, public health, and economic disruptions, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Middle Eastern arts organizations and artists have thrived through systemic oppression and still stand in their power contributing as they always have to this country’s arts and culture narrative,” Wagan adds.

This groundbreaking effort was born out of the Ford Foundation's America's Cultural Treasures initiative. In September 2020 the initiative committed an unprecedented $156 million to support BIPOC arts communities across the country in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release.

The regional grantmaking initiative invested some $35 million across seven regions, including Greater Houston. Local philanthropic partners were invited to match funding in support of multi-year grant programs for cultural groups of color with “exceptional regional or local significance,” per BANF.

Locally, Houston Endowment and the Ford Foundation led the way for BANF's creation, equally donating $5 million, with additional contributions coming from The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Cullen Foundation, Kinder Foundation, and The Powell Foundation.

For Wagan, a shining star at groups such as DiverseWorks, this gift is personal.

“As a child of immigrants who didn’t admit to my classmates that I spent my weekends learning Filipino folk dance, leading this initiative gives me an opportunity to give back in a way I never imagined,” he says.

“In a city like Houston, a Filipino-American can be at the juncture of Latinx, Black, Asian and other important communities of color coming together to pursue change from a place of power, togetherness and abundance. This is a profoundly moving moment in my career and life.”