The Harris County Arts Coalition
The Harris County Arts Coalition (“the Coalition”) is a member-based advocacy group comprised of artists and arts organizations representing the portions of Harris County that lie outside the corporate limits of the city of Houston (Greater Harris County).
The Coalition was formed in response to the devastation the arts and culture industry experienced due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The arts and culture industry impacts the Harris County economy by more than a billion dollars each year and represents close to 30,000 jobs. The industry drives tourism in the area and attracts more than 10 million people a year to 22,000 artistic events. The arts also enhance quality of life, improve mental health, and create a stronger sense of community amongst county residents.
The COVID-19 Pandemic resulted in the shuttering of hundreds of venues, the loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for arts organizations across Harris County. With shows cancelled and art exhibits closed, arts organizations and individual artists are in distress. More than a quarter of all Houston artists have lost 100% of their income due to COVID-19. The number of unemployment insurance claims per week from the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry grew by more than 700% between the first and last weeks of March 2020— a consequence of shutdowns and social distancing measures.
The challenges are exacerbated for the creative industry in Greater Harris County (i.e., unincorporated areas and small municipalities in Harris County, but outside the city of Houston’s corporate limits) as the lion’s share of help from foundations and major arts funders went to organizations within the city of Houston’s corporate limits. No funding of any kind by the county, the state, or the philanthropic community was allocated to specifically support the arts and culture industry in Greater Harris County. In fact, there are no local support funds from the county or the City of Houston to help organizations in these areas mitigate losses and stabilize operations.
Additionally, although Hotel and Occupancy taxes (HOT) are used to fund the arts and culture as they promote tourism, organizations in Greater Harris County do not benefit from these dollars. This is despite the fact that more than 2 million (nearly 50%) of county residents live outside the city of Houston, and 80% of the county’s population growth is in areas outside Houston’s corporate limits.
Led by the Harris County Cultural Arts Center (live link), members from several organizations united in an effort to advocate for funding to help stabilize Greater Harris County’s arts and culture industry and ensure that residents did not lose the benefit of the hundreds of millions of dollars the arts and culture bring to the local economy.
The Coalition is the first and only group in the county specifically focused on providing programs and services in support of a vibrant arts eco-system and industry in Greater Harris County.
The Coalition advocates for and supports the creative industry in Greater Harris County. We also serve as a platform to address concerns, share best practices, collaborate on strategies for increasing cultural tourism in Greater Harris County, and to provide opportunities for creative programming and engagement for residents.
The Mission of the Harris County Arts Coalition is to stabilize the arts and culture industry, achieve funding equity, expand access to the arts and to increase arts and cultural tourism throughout Greater Harris County.
Click here to sign up to become a member of the council and learn more about our work.