HOUSTON – Houston’s arts community has been sidelined by the coronavirus. Box offices, galleries, and other performance venues have been shuttered citywide, leaving thousands of local artists without jobs. There’s a push to help, however, and it’s being led by those who are front-and-center in the industry.
“Every performance has been canceled. Every museum has been shuttered,” said John Abodeely, CEO of Houston Arts Alliance. The Houston Arts Alliance is a non-profit organization that serves as a liaison between the city of Houston and local artists.
The spectrum of art forms that comprise Houston’s collective of artists is broad -- performance, visual, multimedia and more.
Altogether, the arts serve as a growing economic driver in Southeast Texas. Officials said the arts contribute to upwards of $1 billion to the regional economy each year. As a result, no plays, gallery exhibits, or other forms of artistic expression amount to a big loss not only for the region, Abodeely said.
The Houston Arts Alliance reported a potential loss of $50 million in March. That estimate has quadrupled as the region’s fight against the coronavirus has resulted in extended orders to “stay at home.”
“$200 million in potential losses that we’re looking at over this short term shutdown,” Abodeely said, citing a worst-case-scenario.
The loss has a trickledown effect and officials said local artists receive the brunt of its might. Lights out mean contracts aren’t fulfilled, paychecks aren’t cut, lives are forced on hold.
Much of the money the drives the arts community comes from ticket sales.
“The arts community in Houston earns at least 50% of its money from ticket sales, performances, shows, etc,” Abodeely said.
That’s why there’s a push to help area artists with grants to help ease the financial burden brought on by a push to stay in and flatten the curve.
“A lot of the artists are impacted because they work in the service industry. Their full-time jobs that support their artistic practice and skills, or access to skills, or different services has limited because of COVID,” said Ashley DeHoyos, curator of Diverse Works. The organization works with dancers, poets, visual and multimedia artists to create their brands and present their work.
Many work in the service industry, DeHoyos said, to make ends meet and now find themselves without a way to do so.
“There’s a lot of artists that are trying to plan but can’t plan because they’re waiting on the organizations to come back,’’ DeHoyos said.
DeHoyos serves as administrator of a grant meant to help area artists who need it. The Idea Fund is a regranting program to support artists in the Houston area. It’s an emergency relief grant organizers said will help area artists affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty applicants will be awarded $1,000 through an online application site. The deadline to apply is April 27.
“The application is really simple and it’s just a proof of an artistic practice and that includes a website, or it can be a link to an event that was canceled. A link to a performance or a video or social media. Then you have to have a declaration of need,” DeHoyos said.
The Idea Fund is open to artists who live within the Houston metropolitan area, including eight area counties. Click here to apply for the grant.
The Houston Arts Initiative is also administering a grant and it’s joined forces with 12 area arts collectives and the city of Houston.
The Greater Houston Area Arts Relief Fund will award $1,000 grants to local artists, as well.
So far, 220 applications have been filed, officials said.
“We’re talking about basic living expenses to ensure that we reduce food insecurity housing insecurity among the arts,” said Joe Brettell, a board member of the Houston Arts Alliance.