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$5 Million in ARPA Funding Invested in Houston

By Elizabeth Snell

Two matadors with capes in bright pink stage lighting swing the capes as a person with bull horns runs through the middle.

Four months following approval by Houston City Council, 62 Houston arts and cultural organizations learned that their requested funding, up to $100,000, was approved. The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) was able to accomplish this effort in collaboration with Mid-America Arts Alliance, a trusted partner with a track record of helping the city efficiently distribute federal funds within the creative economy. 

“The City of Houston is vibrant and renowned because of the diversity of our artists, arts nonprofits, and cultural centers rooted in deep traditions,” stated Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The cultural sector is not just one of our defining features and economic drivers, it is the soul of our city. This funding will help restore our arts ecosystem and reinvigorate our travel and tourism industry.”

Funded through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), these grants provide immediate and short-term financial assistance to organizations impacted by the global coronavirus (COVID-19). The grants awarded ranged from $8,500 to $100,000 and can support artist contracts, marketing in support of the activities in the artist contracts, and staff expenses incurred between July 1, 2021, through the end of this calendar year.

“Leadership that not only supports but advances the arts in Houston is what we have in Mayor Sylvester Turner,” stated MOCA Director Necole S. Irvin.  “Ensuring that the arts are an integral part of City structure and opportunities, like this stabilization funding, are equitable continue to strengthen the entire community.”

The following grantees were selected following the stated objective review criteria and four areas of emphasis including organizations that represent, or are in service, to under-resourced populations and communities.  

Apollo Chamber Players

Art League of Houston

Asia Society Texas Center

Aurora Picture Show

Blue Triangle Multicultural Association, Inc.

Broadway Bound Youth Musical Theatre Company

Children’s Museum Houston

Classical Theatre Company

Community Music Center of Houston

Dance of Asian America

Dance Source Houston

Diaz Music Institute

Discovery Green Conservancy

The Ensemble Theatre

Exalted Arts Theatre Company

Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation

Filipino Young Professionals

The Foundation for Black Heritage and Culture

Fresh Arts

Friends of River Oaks Theatre, Inc.

The Garden Theatre

Gordon Education Initiatives for the Performing Arts

Harris County Cultural Arts Council

Hispanic Alliance for Performing and Audiovisual Arts, Inc.

HITS Theatre

The Hobby Center Foundation

Houston Ballet Foundation

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft

Houston Center for Photography

Houston Contemporary Dance Company

Houston Grand Opera Association, Inc.

Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, Inc.

Houston Youth Symphony

Indian Performing Arts Samskriti

Indo-American Association

Ishida Dance Company, Inc.

Jazz Houston

Kinetic Ensemble

Main Street Theater Houston


Nameless Sound

Nigerian American Multicultural Center (NAMC)

Opera Leggera, Inc.

Performing Arts Houston

The Pilot Dance Project

Public Poetry

Re-Education Project

Rivkah French Choreography

Rothko Chapel

RSA of Dance & Performing Arts

Russian Cultural Center – Our Texas

Shabach Enterprise

SHAPE Community Center

Silambam Houston

Society for Africans in the Diaspora

Society for Indo-American Arts


Texas Medical Center Orchestra

Theatre Under the Stars



Young Audiences, Inc. of Houston

The COVID-19 public health crisis wreaked havoc on the creative economy. According to the Texas Comptroller, Texas’ arts and entertainment industries were among the hardest hit by the pandemic with $1.6 billion in cumulative losses for the creative industries in Houston along with a loss of more than 42,000 creative jobs.

To assist the arts and cultural sector in a strong and equitable recovery, MOCA collaborated with Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) to distribute federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds via an open application. M-AAA is the  regional arts organization that empowers community through art for the six-state region that includes Texas. In its administrative role, M-AAA created an open application process for Houston arts organizations, provided information sessions, one-on-one support, and extensive outreach.  This led to a total of 115 applicants documenting over $10M in requested funding submitted during the open application process from June 1 through July 10, 2023.

“Supporting our arts and cultural organizations and helping them recover from the strain of the pandemic not only strengthens our economy, it strengthens our sense of community,” said Todd Stein, M-AAA’s president and CEO. “We are honored to partner with the MOCA on this grant opportunity to help arts organizations preserve our collective history and amplify artistic voices.”

Previously, the City of Houston via the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) successfully engaged M-AAA in late 2020 to manage and distribute the City of Houston Musicians and Music Venues Economic Relief Program funded through the Federal CARES Act. 

For further information on the Houston Arts and Cultural Stabilization Grant Program, visit maaa.org


Photography credit: “Torera”, photo courtesy of Alley Theatre. Photographer Lynn Lane.