Ten area individuals and nonprofit organizations have been awarded grants through the Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs to further their work in projects focused on cultural tourism and resilience.

The most recent round of grants from MOCA total $100,000 and were awarded through a competitive program administered by the Houston Arts Alliance. Funded through a portion of the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, the program awards grants in three categories: neighborhood cultural destinations, conference tourism, and disaster resilience awareness. In addition to these funding categories, MOCA awards a small number of special community initiatives each year.

Cultural diversity and the arts are integral to Houston tourism. The city has the largest concentration of cultural districts in Texas, with seven distinct districts designated by the State of Texas: Third Ward, Fifth Ward, Arts District Houston (near Washington and Sawyer), the East End Cultural District, the Midtown Cultural Arts and Entertainment District, the Museum District, and Theater District. Several of the districts are among the most prominent destinations for visitors to the region, according to data collected by Houston First Corporation.

“I am proud to see the diversity in awardees for the City’s Initiative,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “This signature grant program of the city is especially close to my heart as it lifts up the core values I hold dear: equity, inclusion, and diversity. I congratulate all the grantees and wish them well on their projects.”

This is the second of three rounds of grants the city will provide in 2023. Recipients include:

Bharathi Kalai Manram
"The Indian Cultural Expo 2023 offers free admission, ensuring that everyone can partake. This expo aims to showcase the vibrant heritage, culture, and artistic expressions of the Indian community and welcomes individuals from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds who share an interest in Indian traditions and events. The expo offers the general public, residents, and visitors an immersive experience with arts, games, cultural workshops, and traditional dances from India." This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

Community Artists' Collective (for Southern Android Productions)
“Vestiges Heritage Preservation Project is a hybrid folk arts education convening for cultural practitioners and community members interested in learning, exploring, and engaging with practical methods of heritage preservation and cultural production. The bi-monthly convenings are designed over six months to educate intergenerational audiences on the importance and accessibility of resources to help preserve familial cultural treasures, identity formation technologies and deepen individual and collective relationships with the ecology and sustainable design. Each convening features a keynote lecture/ intervention by a Houston based cultural producer." This grant was awarded under the Disaster Resilience category.

Diverse Works Inc.
"DiverseWorks will produce a large-scale, public performance to welcome Little Amal, a 12-foot tall puppet of a 10 year-old Syrian refugee girl, to the Gulfton neighborhood of Houston on October 19, 2023. An international symbol of compassion and human rights, Little Amal is walking 6,000 miles in 2023 to honor the bravery of refugees. DiverseWorks is collaborating with Brave Little Company, artist Afsaneh Aayani, musician Sherry Cheng, composer Hessam Dianpour, and choreographer Adam Castaneda on a lively, interactive performance with Houston’s refugee communities to welcome Little Amal to Houston." This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

Jalen Baker
“I will compose a new suite of music that is based on the book "Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City" which talks about early happenings of the Black community in Houston's 3rd, 4th, and 5th Wards. My compositions will reflect on events and people that helped to shape the cultural identity of the Black communities in these historic neighborhoods. The performance of this music will be at "The Reading Room HTX" located in 4th ward's Freedman's Town and will be performed by a 9-piece ensemble that combines my jazz quintet and a string quartet.” This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

Luana Da Silva
“I founded Batalá Houston in 2013. Batalá is a volunteer group of Houstonian percussionists from diverse backgrounds who play Samba-Reggae. To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I am planning an event entitled "Cultura é Vida..." to take place from 11/2/23 to 11/5/23. I am bringing Mestre Giba Gonçalves, from Brazil to teach percussion workshops and Mestra Janete Silva from New York to teach dance workshops in collaboration with Houston-based dance companies. The workshops will culminate in a free public performance at the Houston Dia De Los Muertos parade and a free public workshop, which will include Batalá, dance and capoeira performances”. This grant was awarded under the Conference Tourism category.

Monica Villarreal
“Cultural Rhythms: Celebrating Unity Through Danza Azteca, aims to activate the vibrant cultural asset of the Houston East End community. Through free Danza Azteca dance classes, we preserve sacred indigenous traditions while fostering connections between cultures. Our inclusive program engages children and families, promoting cross-cultural understanding. Alongside the dance classes that we provide every Sunday, 12 pm to 2 pm at Eastwood Park, we also participate in community performances and drum workshops, allowing residents to showcase their talents and heritage. By fostering dialogue and cultural exchange, we create a sense of pride and belonging in the East End neighborhood”. This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

Indo-American Association Houston
“A spin-off of our 2020 “Singing Together” project, "Breaking Barriers" celebrates Houston’s status as one of the most diverse cities in the country by inviting communities of color to sing and speak with one another. Where our previous project comprised three components (1 performance + 2 dialogue portions) this continuation will bring communities back to the dialogue portion, which audiences at the "Singing Together" concert have begged for since our Discovery Green show during COVID. "Breaking Barriers" will allow us to find commonalities in the music of diverse cultures such as Indian, Black, Latinx, and other Asian cultures”. This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

Nia's Daughters Movement Collective
“Nature Around Us" will be a program during Spring Break at Discovery Green that explores the impact of climate change of the living things while exploring the impacts it has marginalized communities. In response to our ever-changing ecosystem impacted by the climate crisis. One of the feature pieces will be "In Nature" explores a Queen Bee's journey from pollination to discovering new worlds and new homes. Artists who create positive content for diverse audience will be invited to join Nia's Daughters Movement Collective.” This grant was awarded under the Disaster Resilience category.

The Pilot Dance Project
"Aureate is a new dance work by local choreographers Adam Castaneda and Ashley Horn that will premiere December 9 and 10, 2023 at the Deluxe Theater in Houston's historic Fifth Ward. This new work, a meditation on the human inclination for survival in times of great distress, will incorporate the Fifth Ward community through the collection of personal narratives for the purpose of movement creation, the inclusion of Fifth Ward community members into the choreographic process and resulting performance, and artistic contributions to Aureate's production and design elements by celebrated Fifth Ward artists." This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

Rivkah French Choreography
Limitless is a full weekend of engaging dance performances and public movement workshops at the DeLuxe Theater in Houston’s vibrant 5th Ward community in August 2024. Limitless will celebrate the strength, resilience, and triumph of the human spirit in overcoming the challenges of the pandemic and inspire others to embrace their own resilience. Event admission will be low-cost for the general public, and free of charge for all 5th Ward residents. This grant was awarded under the Neighborhood Cultural Destinations category.

View past grantees.

Arts + Culture
Community Impact & Outreach
Cultural Heritage
Domestic Tourism