The City of Houston’s Civic Art Collection Expands Reflecting Diverse Population

The City of Houston’s Civic Art Collection Expands Reflecting Diverse Population


HOUSTON – The Houston Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) has released the results of the 2023 Equity Review – an annual review of the City of Houston’s Civic Art Collection, highlighting new artworks which entered the collection in 2023 and reviewing recent collecting activity led by the Civic Art Program.

Released for the first time in 2020, MOCA’s annual review is designed to help advance the City’s cultural equity goals and includes statistics on the race/ethnicity and gender of artists whose artwork is included in the Civic Art Collection. As Houston is the single most ethnically diverse major metropolitan area in the country, MOCA assesses the Civic Art Collection annually to determine how closely the collection represents the diverse populace in Houston.

“A keystone of my administration has been the work City of Houston teams have done to improve our practices of inclusion, diversity, and recognition. Another is increased support for the arts and cultural sector by City of Houston programs,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Since 2020, with my full support, MOCA has raised the profile of the Civic Art Program and our Collection nationally and internationally and I could not be more proud.”

The 2023 Equity Review presents statistics on the demographics of 471 artists represented by the 815 artworks in the Civic Art Collection. MOCA has looked closely at the identities of artists whose artworks were added to the collection during the 2023 Fiscal Year and at program changes which have impacted results for recent artist opportunities. The review also examines the applicant pools and results of selection processes for six commission projects and the acquisition of 18 ready-to-hang artworks forthcoming to the City in Fiscal Year 2024.

Despite gaps in historic data for the Collection, the review illustrates the results of newly established collecting practices and their impact on the growth of Houston’s Civic Art Collection and show tremendous improvement in equitable investment by the Civic Art Program. In particular, the report shows increased investment in artists who identify as Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx, as well as those who identify as Hispanic, Latino or Latinx and Female – both groups which are overwhelmingly underrepresented by the Civic Art Collection.

Entre Las Brisas created by David Maldonado at the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center, District H
Key Findings: 

•    Six commission projects completed in FY23 installed site-specific permanent artworks from eight BIPOC artists, a majority of whom identify as Women/Female.
•    Selection processes for projects adjudicated in FY23 resulted in unprecedented investment by the Civic Art Program in artists who identify Hispanic, Latino, Latinx, and as Female.
•    Increased diversity in results for artist selection processes correlates positively with increased diversity among selection panelists.
•    The selection processes highlighted which focused eligibility on artists from across the Americas in an effort to commission artwork from Latin-American artists and resulted in commission contracts that will focus investment in the ethnic/racial group and gender group most underrepresented in Houston’s Civic Art Collection.

“If there was any question about whether the collecting practices which influence the Civic Art Collection can change drastically to entreat greater diversity, this 2023 report shows that it’s possible,” says Necole S. Irvin, MOCA Director.  “Possible and at a remarkable pace because of the leadership, vision, and the deep work of the Civic Art Program Manager Theresa Escobedo.”

Theresa Escobedo, Civic Art Program Manager
Since 2020, Escobedo, the city’s first-ever Civic Art Program Manager for Houston, has invested concerted effort in establishing new goals for the Civic Art Program and the Civic Art Collection. Spear-heading the consolidation of oversight of the Civic Art Program under the auspices of MOCA, she has developed a new vision for the future of Houston’s public art collection, has written new best practices for equitable collecting into the first-ever comprehensive program policy written for the program, and has deepened the interdepartmental relationships which support commission efforts across the city.

Despite the demographic balance of gender, race, and ethnicity in Houston’s Civic Art Collection being typical of municipal public art collections and the art world at large, MOCA maintains its commitment to improving the nature, quality, character, and diversity of artist perspectives presented Houston’s public art collection.

To learn more about the Civic Art Program, you can access the 2023 Equity Review and the 2023 Civic Art Program Annual Report.