Arts Accountability Houston Statement

Arts Accountability Houston (AAH) is a targeted initiative organized by artists for accountability from the Mayor of Houston, and by extension, the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). We have come together in response to COVID-19's impact on Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenue. Because of a projected 50% reduction in HOT funds, Houston artists who were awarded grants by HAA for 2020 have been left in a precarious and uncertain position, with particularly negative effects for working-class artists and artists of color. For communities in Houston, the arts are the lifeblood, a way of imagining new futures, and a platform for vital cultural expression in these difficult times.

As a group, we have three demands for the Mayor of Houston and all relevant decision-makers:

1) MOCA and HAA immediately create a plan to pay, in full, all 2020 individual grantees through whatever means necessary without any interruption to future arts funding awards or amounts; this includes both the Support for Artist and Creative Individuals (SACI) and Let Creativity Happen (LCH).

2) The Mayor, MOCA and HAA will halt the current funding structure for arts grantmaking based on projected HOT funds and work towards immediately implementing one with guaranteed allocations for artists without any interruption in future arts funding awards and amounts. HAA must work with MOCA and Mayor Sylvester Turner to ensure this change is implemented.

3) That MOCA and HAA create a plan and implement the best practices of other publicly funded granting models (Austin, Denmark and New Zealand) in both their compassionate Covid-19 responses as well as ensuring greater equity for working-class artists and artists of color. This is to take place in paid consultation with elected artists and community members of this city.

Why we are asking for this:
We put forward these demands as an opportunity for the Mayor of Houston to recognize the indispensable function of cultural workers by committing to support the vibrant and critical art community during this pandemic. Inherent to any such commitment comes with an understanding that arts grants funding must be maintained throughout this entire crisis.

The City recently voted to increase police funding by $19 million dollars, making clear that while we are in the middle of a fiscal crisis, the city does have access to some additional funds. What we are asking for as an artist community that is concerned not just with ourselves, but with the health of future artists communities, is minimal in comparison to what the city has already funneled into other institutions. Therefore, any pause or decrease in funding, whether temporary or otherwise, should be adamantly resisted at all costs. As the current structure is modeled, all financial risk is assumed by individual artists. To treat individuals as corporations is unethical and incomprehensible; moreover, entering contractual agreements based on projected funds not yet in existence is grossly exploitative of the economic precarity inherent to life as an artist in the United States, particularly for artists of color and working-class artists.

Artists are especially vulnerable given the unemployment and eviction crisis that is bearing down on Houston. Only by meeting these demands will the Mayor of Houston, MOCA and HAA take their first steps towards accountability to the arts community in Houston. Individual artists should not be left to carry this burden alone.

*ADDENDUM:
On Friday, October 23, 2020, Arts Accountability Houston retracted the phrase “the consequential mishandling of publicly funded grant allocations” as there was never any intention to lead the public into thinking there had been any dishonest or fraudulent conduct involving public funds. This change was communicated to all signatories prior to this announcement.

Our intention has always been to draw attention to the missteps taken by HAA & MOCA: the general lack of grantee-wide communication and transparency with regards to grant decisions; the delay of eight full months to publicly announce the full list of grantees; and the lack of specific support for artists who were ineligible for CARES Act funds or any other type of relief funding. Furthermore, throughout the entire HAA grant application process, no attention was drawn to the fact that grant funding was based on projected income, i.e. funds not already “banked” and available for distribution. In fact, most of the artist grantees were not informed of this fact until they received their contracts in early March of 2020, two whole months after they were notified their application was successful. Grantees, who at this point in the funding process were inconveniently straddled, had little recourse but to sign their contracts, having already made plans for the year with the HAA grant in mind.

AAH recognizes that HAA has begun to take steps to remedy the situation for the HAA 2020 SACI grantees. However, the rest of the statement still stands and we urge HAA and MOCA to continue to find funds to: make up for the shortfall the 2020 SACI grantees are experiencing; fulfil 2021’s funding cycle; and put arts funding in Houston on more solid ground to ensure equity for the arts in Houston.

WHO WE ARE:
AAH is an ad-hoc group recently formed, made up of current grantees, past grantees, and concerned members of the arts community in Houston. We are committed to working for long-term structural change in Houston that will contribute to greater equity and accountability.

If you support our efforts, please sign this form. The list of supporters is updated regularly on our website: www.artsaccountabilityhouston.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Art.Acc.Hou@gmail.com
WEBSITE:
ArtsAccountabilityHouston.org

Email address *
Full name
Title (Example: Artist, Art Administrator, Director, Curator, Organizer, Organization etc) *
Current Status (please choose one) *
I reside in Harris County *
Add me to the AAH private FB Group (cut and paste your FB URL here). By adding your Facebook URL, you confirm it is okay for one of us to add you as a friend if we cannot find someone already in the FB group to add you.
I agree to have my name listed publicly on the AAH statement and shared with organizations as a supporter of this targeted initiative. *
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