Arts and Culture Report from Center for Houston's Future

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Here in Houston we create and celebrate arts and cultural heritage the same way we do so many other things – with bold strokes, rambunctious energy, and great good humor.

We’re particularly proud to brag on our most prominent and celebrated institutions, crowing (correctly) that we’re one of the few cities in the United States that boasts permanent resident companies across the major performing arts disciplines – symphony orchestra, grand opera, theater, and ballet. Not to mention exceptional fine arts museums. So yes, we’ve got good reason to toot our trumpets. These institutions have a storied history. They’re well-respected and well-reviewed throughout the country and around the globe.

Of course, when we consider Houston’s arts and cultural heritage in broad terms, we’re not all about the high-brow. Our folk and vernacular traditions encompass everything from neighborhood renditions of free expression such as the Beer Can House to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The rodeo, in fact, may be the single largest ambassador of the Houston region’s cultural identity. A recent editorial in the Houston Chronicle noted that the rodeo has become “so successful that it draws more visitors than all the people in the entire city of Houston” while still engaging a diverse and burgeoning hometown population. The Chronicle identified the rodeo and the Houston Grand Opera as exemplars of organizations that have “embraced the obligation to … reflect the community.”

Indeed, our major institutions do an admirable job of connecting with the Houston region’s diverse constituencies. And all those varied communities have generated a fertile artistic and cultural universe that reflects our manifold cultures and backgrounds, as well as our gloriously colorful future.

So when we decided to study the Houston region’s arts and cultural heritage, we knew we’d be working from a rich palette. We also knew this topic would present particular challenges, unlike those encountered in earlier reports. The arts by nature capture a subjective version of our world, and for that reason prove resistant to quantification. In the absence of hard data, the temptation is to talk about what we like or don’t like. But our aim here is not to produce a qualitative review of our arts and cultural scene. Nor is it to assess the economic or social impact of arts and culture on our region. Our aim is to come to some understanding of how well the greater Houston region cultivates, encourages, and nourishes artistic and cultural expression, particularly in terms of financial sustainability.

The Arts & Cultural Heritage Community Indicator Report focuses on three regional topics – cultural organizations, funding for the arts, and people and jobs. The report strives to capture longitudinal trends and challenges with comparisons to competitor regions within Texas and around the nation. Within this report, we selected individual indicators* following a literature review, and consultation with dozens of arts and cultural leaders throughout the region via interviews, focus groups, and peer review meetings. The chosen indicators reflect both the priorities voiced by these leaders, as well as practical considerations related to the availability of the existing data.

 

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