Hispanic artists explain how Houston Arts Alliance gave them power to continue creating pieces

Rita Garcia Image
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
How Houston nonprofit works to reach more Hispanic artists
The Houston Arts Alliance is working to reach more Hispanic artists since discovering a gap between the organization and the city's demographics.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We're in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month and continue to share stories impacting our community. ABC13 is highlighting the Houston Arts Alliance, and we have more about who they are and how they are working to reach more Hispanic artists since discovering a gap between the organization and the city's demographics.

Patrick Medrano is a painter and sculptor, and Sonia Flores describes herself as a mixed media artist. Both are different types of creatives, but come together as one to paint a better idea of how the Houston Arts Alliance has helped them on their artistic journeys to inspire other artists, specifically Hispanics.

Flores said that as a recent grant recipient, she felt her work was not just appreciated but validated.

"Everything I do is gig work. Being allowed the grant, it gave me the opportunity to put value to my work and not just like a hobby that I do and take my art seriously," Flores said.

Medrano, on the other hand, explained how he knows firsthand what young artists may be experiencing now.

"Most of the time we sit around trying to figure out how do we spend eight hours a day, young artists, at a job that gives us nothing in our soul so that we can go home and produce the art that means something to us. It's so hard to balance that, and with organizations like Houston Arts Alliance, they make it very possible by giving you a head start," he said.

Michele Leal Farah said she loves to hear the positive feedback, but there's still a lot of work to be done. As the vice chair of the board of directors for HAA, she said there's plenty of grant money since awarding roughly $15 million annually, but there aren't enough applicants who reflect the demographics of our city.

Data from the City of Houston Health Department shows Hispanics make up close to 41% of the city's population. With that, Leal Farah said equity is one of the alliance's core pillars, and after looking at this type of data, they've identified a gap between the organization and the Hispanic community.

That's why members of the organization have been working to translate their resources into Spanish and even simplified their application process.

"You know and I know that we are the majority of the population here, and so we should be the majority of the applicants and the majority of the grantees. That's what we are working toward," Leal Farah said.

She said it's also possible that the arts community just doesn't know who they are and how they can help. Medrano added to that saying it's also likely young up-and-coming artists in certain communities just aren't seeing the organization's message given their environment.

"If you don't have access to a computer, library, you don't have access to knowledge and resources," he said.

Since receiving a grant in 2007, Medrano has worked on a number of projects and was recently selected as the featured artist for the nonprofit's upcoming gala and fundraiser. He's working on the piece now called "The Circle," a five-armed marionette designed to be interactive.

As for Flores, she recently showed us a macramé panel she created as part of a bigger collection called "Nebula One." She said all the materials were paid for with grant money and explained the story behind the colorful piece.

Her latest installation is already on the move since receiving offers from other galleries to display her work. Flores said that's the perfect example of how Houston Arts Alliance has helped her grow her craft.

"When the money runs out, the opportunities don't, as long as you keep pushing it. You stay relevant and you stay in the public eye," she said.

That's also her secret to getting her voice heard and her work recognized but not before finding the inspiration and confidence to believe others could be the next grant recipient.

"You can imagine struggling, and all of a sudden an organization says here's $6,000,000 let's see what you can do. That's power to an artist," Medrano added.

For more information, visit the Houston Arts Alliance website