Cultural Affairs Office

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Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs Awards $30,000 to Digitally Innovative Arts and Cultural Works

August 12, 2021 -- The City of Houston Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) announced today that it is awarding $30,000 in grants to 12 individuals and nonprofit organizations that have reimagined their work in the digital realm. The work includes streaming services, virtual reality, and digital curation to deliver manifested live concerts, theatre performances, and literary concepts in online-only platforms.

"The grants will provide a new opportunity for innovation that will open Houston's vibrant arts and cultural community to a global audience,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “The City will continue investing in the creative economy and the artists that are integral to its growth.”

MOCA awarded the funds through "Let Creativity Happen", a competitive grant program that is administered by the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) and funded by a portion of the city's Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT).

The program will accept applications three times in 2021 and will offer grants for arts and cultural experiences that use technology to connect audiences beyond the physical boundaries of space. The move to online-only platforms breaks down accessibility barriers, increases interest among audiences, and invites experimentation on a large scale. Most importantly, this move facilitates the reimagination of these important cultural contributions beyond traditional structures.

Artists and creatives interested in city funding to support their arts and cultural work should apply to the 2022 Grant Cycle scheduled to launch by September 10. Learn more.

MOCA Grants Flyer

The latest "Let Creativity Happen" grantees will create the following work: 

1. Outdoor Duos
By Jahrel Pickens
“Outdoor Duos is a weekly live stream event featuring a different guest each week from the Houston music scene broadcast at various locations outside (La Carafe, Memorial villages farmers market, Levy Park, to name a few). Starting at the beginning of August and going until the end of October for 12 sessions total. I will be playing a variety of acoustic instruments and singing with my guest for the week. Music styles and potential guests include: Hannah Underwood - old time banjo, Robert Rodriguez III - conjunto accordion, Louis Morales - reggae guitar, and Paul Ramirez - blues guitar.”

2. Occam XVII: Ground/Water
By Austin Lewellen
“Houston's ties to water, both good and bad, are very in-line with the aesthetic priorities of French composer and electronic musician Éliane Radigue's ‘Occam’ series of solo instrumental works. Number XVII, written for double bass, reflects the journey of a deep-sea drone from the surface, to the ocean floor, and back. I propose a video recording of this work in the Buffalo Bayou Cistern, which would be the premiere of the work in the U.S., accompanied by moderated artist talks and a webpage that contextualizes Radigue's artistic practice within Houston's environmental history.”

3. 610 Composer Showcase
By Craig Hauschildt
“The "610 Composer Showcase" is the capstone event to a season-long effort to celebrate and explore the music of emerging Texas composers.  Each work on the program is selected through a competitive process managed by Loop38. The selected composers will work collaboratively with Loop38 musicians, who will create a high-quality video recording of their works. The digital showcase will premiere March 20, 2022, at 5 p.m. CDT on Facebook and YouTube. The event and its promotion will be designed to spotlight and lift up each of the emerging composers.”

4. Houston Brass Band Presents: A Midsummer Night's Stream
“Experience the sound of the Houston Brass Band from the comfort of your home! Listeners are invited to join “A Midsummer Night’s Stream”, a full-length virtual British brass band concert via YouTube Live. This performance will feature seven musical selections including James Curnow’s Fanfare and Flourishes, Derek Borgeouis’s Fantasia on Tico Tico, and Tom Davoren’s Diversions on Calon Lan featuring our principal trombonist.”

5. Secret Lies of the Gossip Teen:  A Web Series
By Jeana Magallon
“Says Who? Productions (an all-female led Houston based production company) is in pre-production for the second episode of the Secret Lies of the Gossip Teen web series. The second episode will go into full production in 2021, and primarily film at the MECA Center in Houston. The goal of the web series is to comedically play with archetypes often portrayed in media, and find the heart in these characters we love to laugh at. We also hope to provide on-camera opportunities for young and upcoming actors in our great city of Houston.”

6. Storytime With Silambam
By Silambam Houston
“’Storytime With Silambam’ harnesses the storytelling power and movement vocabulary of Indian classical dance, and the rhythms of Indian classical music, in a series of short videos that tell stories from Indian mythology and folklore. Each 3- to 5-minute video will include English narration and voice overs, paired with the expressive gestural storytelling and rhythmic movement vocabulary of Indian classical dance. These short videos will engage audiences in a journey of cultural exchange and discovery, which will be extended by interactive online sessions with the artists following the premiere of each video.”

7. A Guide to Black Houston
By Lindsay Gary
“A Guide to Black Houston” is a unique exploration of African American art, culture and history. The guide highlights the many, often little-known, sites that have been built and sustained by Black Houstonians since the city’s earliest years. The guide is a treasure for both locals and tourists as it takes them on a rich and compelling journey. The guide will be launched virtually and at the featured sites in February 2022.”

8. Major Marshall Taylor Mural
By Melissa Aytenfisu
“I'm making a mural of Marshall 'Major' Taylor, which will be in Third Ward at the Bike Shop at 2305 Wheeler Street, Houston. The mural background will be inspired by the colors and textiles of Ethiopia, as well as the word art portraits of Wadsworth Jarrell. I will paint the mural in 2021. This will be a live painting event accompanied by an invitation for the public to paint small sections of the mural, a bike ride street art tour of Third Ward that will highlight the location of my mural, and online Zoom live streaming events.”

9. Muse and the Amused
By Vonetta Jenkins
“Imagine sharing a hobby in a way that allows your partner to BECOME that hobby. Through a body painting live stream, Vonetta Berry will create a camoflauged body painting featuring a bowler at the alley, a car owner and his prize car, a nature lover in nature, and a comic nerd surrounded by his games, comics, and collectibles. Each live stream will be publicized via YouTube and Facebook, and the audience will have the opportunity to view them after. The final photographs will be available as digital NFTs after each stream. Tentative dates are July 22, July 31, August 5, and September 25.”

10. Musical Storytime: Enriching Houston's Diverse Families
By Ars Lyrica Houston
“Musical Storytime is an ongoing virtual series. Episodes feature fascinating stories from diverse cultures, narrated in two languages, and accompanied by music from the region and time period of the story. With over 100 languages spoken and 53 dual-language schools in Houston, this series celebrates the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of our cosmopolitan city. Ars Lyrica’s first two episodes of Musical Storytime, in Spanish and German, have received over 1,900 views on Facebook and YouTube.”

11. From the Cave
By Erica Lee
“Like Plato’s cave dwellers, we were isolated from the world in 2020. Our sole connection to the outside became our devices. Starting in August 2021, “From the Cave” will transform a house’s entry room into a painted cave to explore the ways in which isolation and technology have shaped our psyche over the past year and to consider how we may go about returning to the world in the coming year.”

12. Houston Chamber Choir "With One Accord" Podcast Series
By Houston Chamber Choir
“The Houston Chamber Choir’s "With One Accord" podcast will return to bring more choral joy in the 2021-22 artistic season! Starting September 2021, the organization will host weekly Music Mondays with Artistic Director Robert Simpson where he will present past performances by the Houston Chamber Choir and outstanding choirs around the world. On the first and last Fridays of the month, get a glimpse into the personalities of the Houston Chamber Choir on Behind the Music with St. John Flynn and take a look at the choral world’s rising stars on our Education Spotlight with April Harris. Episodes are released at noon CDT.”

MOCA Grants Musicians

About the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs
The City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs guides the City’s cultural investments with policies and initiatives that expand access to arts and cultural programs in the community, attract visitors and leverage private investment. Learn more at and follow us on Facebook & Instagram @HoustonMOCA.

About Houston Arts Alliance
Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is a local arts and culture organization whose principal work is to implement the City of Houston’s vision, values, and goals for its arts grantmaking and civic art investments. HAA also executes privately funded special projects to meet the needs of the arts community, such as disaster preparation, research on the state of the arts in Houston, and temporary public art projects that energize neighborhoods. To learn more about HAA, visit and follow us on Facebook & Instagram @Houstonartsalliance.