Antioch Missionary Baptist Church Houston/Facebook

In the shadows of downtown's skyscrapers, tucked between Buffalo Bayou and the bustling city core is Freedmen's Town. Immediately recognizable for its redbrick-accented streets and historic homes, the neighborhood was originally established in 1865 by more than 1,000 former enslaved people, who built it into a center for life, worship, and work.

Now, the enclave is getting a huge boost through a new initiative, Rebirth in Action: Telling the Story of Freedom. The $1 million initiative is a partnership between the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy (HFTC), the City of Houston, and artist Theaster Gates.

The multi-year project is designed to showcase Freedmen's Town as a monument to Black community, agency and heritage.The more than $1 million in funding comes from the Mellon Foundation and the NEA Our Town Grant.

In a city that's always making way for the new, sometimes it's easy for the past to get overlooked. Rebirth in Action aims to ensure that doesn't happen. The project will encompass infrastructure resiliency planning, artist activations through local artist residencies throughout the Freedmen’s Town area, and a large scale exhibition with Gates focused on the narratives of the longtime residents of the neighborhood.

Rebirth in Action is an example of how social innovation in Black communities develops out of precarity and how a museum can work hand-in-hand with community partners to engage in restorative justice and develop deeper community engagement through the lens of art, healing, and community investment,” said CAMH Deputy Director Seba R. Suber in a press release announcing the project.

This initiative will include a variety of stakeholders: Local artists and research fellows will have the chance to pitch their projects and works through an open call for proposals. CAMH's CAMHLAB artists-in-residence at Freedmen’s Town will be curated for projects that highlight, honor, and animate the histories and stories of Freedmen’s Town.

Each residency will culminate in a public presentation of a project within Freedmen’s Town. National artists like Theaster Gates will also have activations in the neighborhood, adding to its stories and legacies.

Gates' work considers the true power of Black spaces and invites audiences to see them as places of resilience, restitution, and redemption.

Freedmen's Town is Houston’s first Heritage District that includes seven sites recognized by UNESCO Routes of Enslaved Peoples project. One of Rebirth in Action's first priorities is to preserve the area's brick streets, laid by those early founders, and so elemental to the neighborhood's legacy.

A kickoff celebration for Rebirth in Action is scheduled for February 14 at 10 am. The public, artists, and others interested in learning more about - or becoming involved with — the project are encouraged to attend.

Houston grants $11.5 million to local artists, performers, and organizations for a creative boost in 2023

drawing support

Houston artists and arts organizations have received a big boost from the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) — in the form of $11.5 million in grants.

These grants will help 57 individuals, 131 arts and culture nonprofit organizations, and fiscally sponsored projects and will help fund public exhibitions, presentations, and performances in 2023, according to a city announcement.

Monies come from the Support for Organizations, Festival, and Support for Artists and Creative Individuals grant programs. Those grants provide funding that allows individuals and cultural organizations to present a diverse array of programming and performances, artistic works and compositions, and events and festivals.

These grants are funded in part by the city's hotel occupancy tax and are managed through the local arts nonprofit Houston Arts Alliance.

“This massive investment into the arts sector highlights how important the arts are to the City of Houston,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner in a press release announcing the awards. “The arts help shape our city’s identity and we foster the creativity of our residents for the benefit of every Houstonian. I want this support for the arts to be a part of my legacy as Houston’s mayor.”

As for the lucky recipients: The individuals receiving grants are artists, dancers and composers, and organizations such as museums, theaters, cultural centers and more.

A full list of recipients is available online. Individuals and organizations who are interested in the grants must apply for the funds via a competitive two-step process.

Magpies and Peacocks Facebook

Magpies and Peacocks

Magpies and Peacocks< div> WEBSITE >

The nonprofit design house Magpies & Peacocks, Inc. creates an environment for positive change by nurturing arts education, keeping fashion out of landfills, and giving back to the Houston community. Their model rests on four pillars: collaborate, create, educate, and invest. Through that, they build creative connections between local leaders, businesses, donors, artists, designers, educators, and Houston-area nonprofits. 


Magpies & Peacocks is run entirely on volunteer power, and you can donate here or sign up to voulnteer in many different capacites here


Magpies & Peacocks hosts the annual Catwalks & Classrooms sustainable student design showcase in April. 

Jazz Education Inc. Facebook

Jazz Education Inc.

Jazz Education Inc.< div> WEBSITE >

Jazz Education Inc. was founded in 1970 by the now-deceased Bubbha Thomas. The mission of Jazz Education Inc. is to provide a unique cultural experience that exposes Houstonians and visitors to jazz music and help preserve the art. It fills a void within music education among under-served youth and has raised nearly $5 million since its inception for this purpose.

Jazz Education Inc. promotes broad-based positive community impact through a number of programs, ranging from a five-week intensive summer camp for young musicians to an annual International Jazz Festival, which is celebrating 30 years and features artists from around the world.


Donations, sponsors, and volunteers are always appreciated, especially to help out with the Houston International Jazz Festival weekend.


The Houston International Jazz Festival is July 30-August 1, followed by the Jazz Scholarship Brunch on August 2. There is also a holiday jazz concert in December.

Photo by Jann Whaley

Alley Theatre

Alley Theatre< div> WEBSITE >

The Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre produces great theatre that embodies the resident company.


You can buy tickets to see the shows, make a charitable contribution, or volunteer as an usher.


There is a $75 membership fee to join the Alley's young professionals group, SCENE.


The Alley hosts events for patrons and donors all year long, including the annual Opening Act event for the young professionals each fall and an annual ball each spring.

Photo by Piero Manriq Photography

CAM Fort Bend

CAM Fort Bend< div> WEBSITE >

CAM Fort Bend curates a self-sustaining, community-centric art museum and engages the public with thought-provoking art exhibitions, educational programming, and art-centered events.

It is the only art museum in Fort Bend County, with more than 45,000 visitors a year and 36 exhibitions.


Friendly, art-loving volunteers are always wanted. The four-hour shifts typically revolve around indoor and outdoor events, and while some art knowledge is needed it's not required. Training is provided, and volunteers must be 16 years and older.

Donations help ensure the programming and overall longevity of CAM Fort Bend. They help fund the new home of the museum, the multitude of programs available to the public, and sustain the group's mission and outreach of CAM Fort Bend. 


Art is the Sauce: The Un-gala is the group's annual fundraiser.

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Brad Paisley steals hearts — and a fan's phone — in his Star Trail of Fame RodeoHouston show

a star is born

Just a few hours before hitting the stage for his 15th show at RodeoHouston on Saturday, March 18, Brad Paisley was inducted into the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo’s Star Trail of Fame.

The guitar picker joined the likes of Brooks & Dunn, Reba, Charley Pride, Elvis Presley, Gene Autry (the first performer ever), Roy Rogers, Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Selena.

Unless you are a certified rodeo rat like myself and have spent years stalking the halls of the NRG Center assignments, you’ve likely never seen this wall of gold plaques, located on the second floor of NRG Center outside HLSR’s offices.

Paisley’s star is the tenth on the wall, hanging next to Selena. On Saturday, he spoke briefly at an unveiling ceremony hosted by HLSR organizers.

“There’s nothing like this in the world,” Paisley told the assembled Houston press and rodeo brass on Saturday afternoon. “You guys realize that.”

It’s an honor reserved for the performers who’ve made a pronounced mark on the event. For some, like Reba and Strait, it’s about longevity and universal draw. While Selena (1993, 1994, 1995) and Elvis Presley (1970, 1974) only appeared at the rodeo a handful of times, their appearances have grown into sacred cultural milestones for two distinct demographics.

In Houston, you can age a native by who they first saw at the rodeo, like cowboy cosplay carbon dating. It doesn’t take long into a casual conversation about the rodeo without someone bragging about who they first saw.

Not unlike vegans, it won’t take long for someone to edify you with tales of seeing Elvis’ name on the Dome’s exploding scoreboard, or seeing Selena’s famous outfits in living color on Diamond Vision from the cheap seats. For me, it was being four years old and Strait showing off some of his ocean front property in 1987.

Paisley’s rodeo stops have always been breathers, nights to stretch and enjoy the scenery, like an industry night for the rodeo season. He’s performed at every RodeoHouston held since 2014, and without COVID changing the world’s plans, Saturday night’s matinee would have been his 17th show.

I’ve never heard anyone say an unkind word about a Paisley variety show stop. The rodeo’s starred stage, in whatever iteration, feels like home to him. The Grand Ole Opry and Guitar Hall of Fame member could be the house performer at an all-year rodeo theme park and no one would bat an eye.

He’s grown into an ambassador for a gentler, comical side of modern country music that’s always needed. Running counter to the stuffy modern hat acts, the sterner indie-toned traditionalists, and the rap-liters. Paisley’s the dude playing the hits, showing off his picking fingers, and having a beer with everyone in the room. No one else on this year’s rodeo lineup besides Paisley has recorded a song with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, either.

On Saturday night, Paisley brought the warmth from his plaque unveiling onto the stage in front of a sold out matinee crowd. “River Bank” kicked things off with Paisley’s slashing riverbilly guitar out front.

It only took three songs for Paisley to make his first tour onto the dirt for “Perfect Storm”, which morphed into a cover of “The Love Boat” TV theme song as Paisley took a victory lap on the west side of the stadium. Of course, “Water” was the next song.

Music videos have always been Paisley’s multimedia creative jam and he made sure to sprinkle some gems from his videography into the set and screens. “Waitin’ On a Woman” came with the requisite posthumous cameo from Andy Griffith from the music video. For “Celebrity,” Paisley’s own mascot from the industry-skewering viral video made a minor cameo in the chute seats.

For a foggy mountain jam, Paisley and his band members with instruments that can go mobile joined him on the dirt for a road trip.

“You’re such a beautiful mix of Budweiser, cow shit, and Brut Cologne,” Paisley told the crowd as “I’m Still A Guy” worked its way into the set list.

Paisley stole a fan’s phone for a spell and began to play on Aurora Fernandez Sordelli’s Instagram account, perusing her socials and critiquing her profile. It completely made sense for United States Congressman Dan Crenshaw to sit in on “American Saturday Night,” playing tambourine more than slightly off beat.

Brad Paisley RodeoHouston 2023

Photo by Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo

“The Brad Paisley Variety Hour has been a certified hit for 15 rodeo seasons running and hopefully, we’re only at the beginning of its run.


River Bank

Wrapped Around

Perfect Storm

The Literal Love Boat Theme


Waitin’ On a Woman



Last Time For Everything

Old Alabama

I’m Still A Guy

This is Country Music

American Saturday Night (with Dan Crenshaw on tambourine)


She’s Everything

Longtime Houston news anchor's new commercial success leads week's hottest stories

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Longtime Houston news anchor boasts serious commercial success in new TV gig. Our columnist catches up with the former ABC13 employee about life as a TV spokesperson.

2. The ultimate Houston list of kid-friendly and family fun for spring break 2023. We've rounded up more than 20 suggestions to beat back boredom.

3. Turnpike Troubadours kick up some red dirt redemption in RodeoHouston's top-selling show to date. Like Ferris Bueller, Turnpike brings together the country music tribes..

4. 9 best Houston bars for 2023 mix legendary local faves with must-visit newcomers. Presenting the nominees for Bar of the Year in the 2023 Tastemaker Awards.

5. Local Foods owner serves up French bistro with caviar service, regional classics, and a duck-short rib burger in Rice Village. The new restaurant is located in the former Thai Spice space.

Brad Paisley joins George Strait and Selena with induction into RodeoHouston's prestigious Star Trail of Fame

paisley park

Country superstar Brad Paisley's RodeoHouston performance on Saturday, March 18 will mark more than his 15th time taking the Rodeo stage.

The amiable singer and crooner will also be inducted into the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo’s prestigious Star Trail of Fame at 3 pm the same day.

This honor makes Paisley the 10th star honored with a gold plaque to commemorate his years of outstanding entertainment at the Rodeo. For those keeping score (and there are many), Paisley has played at RodeoHouston every year since 2014. He's also famous for his choice of wife, noted actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley.

"Brad Paisley is a great addition to our Star Trail of Fame, as he’s playing his 15th show at RodeoHouston this weekend and continues to be one of our top performers each season," Jason Kane, RodeoHouston's director of entertainment, tells CultureMap. "We’re thrilled to recognize Brad and welcome him to our RodeoHouston family, alongside fellow artists who have helped shaped our show over the years."

As for those other artists on the trail, those include names like the King of Country George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, and our beloved Tejano queen Selena.

Fans who want to check out the official Star Trail of Fame can find it on the second floor of NRG Center outside the Rodeo’s offices.