What do you get when you mix art and government? Words. Lots and lots of words!
I’m referring to grants, proposals and competing for money for projects supported by local and national government institutions.
I go cross-eyed reading some of the verbose calls for art that come across my “desk.” I’m kind of one of those “just do it, ask questions later” artists. When it comes to grants, you really have to have your act together and there is a lot more to it than proper grammar and punctuation. To those of you like me, we have a higher chance of getting arrested than becoming the darling of the City of Houston.
If being the center of attention is your cup of tea, then Houston has a special invitation for you. The city, in a recent news release, invited proposals for local public art projects that Mayor Sylvester Turner would endorse for potential grant funding by a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) program called “Our Town.”
The federal agency’s grant program is interested in art projects tied to community priorities such as public safety, health, blight and vacancy, environment, job creation, equity, local business development, education, civic participation and/or community cohesion.
The Our Town website plainly states, “The highest ranking official of the local government is required to submit a formal statement of support designating the project as the one of the up to two applications being submitted for the local government.”
The grants are up to $200,000, and artists and organizations who receive the grants must provide matching funds.
“As we work to develop our ‘complete city’ with enhancements for every neighborhood, I’m excited about artists and organizations bringing forward their best ideas for this grant opportunity,” Turner said.
The Our Town program supports projects that create lively, beautiful and resilient places with the arts at their core. The grant embraces the expanding role that culture plays in communities.
Applications guided by the city’s Arts and Cultural Plan will be most competitive for the mayor’s endorsement. The plan’s mission “is to foster an environment in which art and culture flourish for the sharing and benefit of all residents and visitors.”
Details can be found on the city website under Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
Applicants are encouraged to consult the Our Town grant program website. The NEA website has many examples, documents and even webinars to assist in preparing proposals. This is the 10th year for the Our Town program, giving applicants a virtual treasure trove of past successful examples. That website link is https://www.arts.gov/grants-organizations/our-town/grant-program-description.
While browsing the website, I followed a link to “Exploring Our Town” that has categories of past project examples separated by setting, type and location. For my visual personality, the gallery style layout is perfect for finding similar projects. From there, more details on the hows, whys and outcomes are detailed on an easy-to-read format with photos and more detail than I expected. Consider my opening statement!
Applicants should submit their concepts, with identified artists and partners, no later than June 18 to Cultural.Affairs@houstontx.gov.
Successful applicants will receive the required endorsement letter to include with their final submission to the NEA, which is due Aug. 8.
To learn more about the city’s cultural programs, visit online and follow the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs on Facebook and Instagram @HoustonMOCA.
In other news, Sawyer Yards Second Saturday open studios at Silos, Winter and Silver will open at night, joining The Market at Sawyer Yards this summer for second Saturdays in June, July and August. Get details, and not too many words, at SawyerYards.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and The Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.