We had the good fortune of connecting with HALA (Houston Alliance for Latinx Arts) and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi HALA, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
We are an artist advocacy group fostering leadership in Houston Latinx arts community. We’ve been working as volunteers to help uplift our fellow community members by exposing them to Houston’s artistic offerings. We meet quarterly to help shed a light on artists and arts activities by connecting, sharing and cultivating partnerships.
The Houston Alliance for Latinx Arts (H.A.L.A.) is an artist/creatives-led advocacy group whose mission is: to engage with and foster leadership within Houston’s Latinx arts communities; actively share their talents and connect via professional development; promote artistic collaboration; and advocate for policy changes in our City’s and County’s fiscal structure for equitable funding for Hispanic/Latino/a/x/Mexican-American artists and arts organizations commensurate with the Houston regional area’s 45% population of peoples from Spanish speaking descent.
Throughout the life of our organization, we have held no less than 20 meetings with the public and active Latinx artists who are impacted by the institutional structures created for all artists by the City of Houston. Our role has been to connect these artist communities, find common ground, and educate and inform (where needed) those stakeholders who would otherwise not be connected to this information. In our development, HALA has realized that the missing link is development. Already at a deficit, the Latinx creative community is impacted by the lack of funding, language barriers, and overall inability to compete at the same level as other, more privileged communities.
HALA’s work focuses on presenting breaking news and important developments relevant to our field and caters to the Latinx experience as first-hand responders. We look to the needs of our stakeholders and attempt to fill that void: Translation/ interpretation (Spanish), answering questions about opportunities and presenting the latest news pertinent to the Latinx arts community. In acting as a network hub for information we can disseminate knowledge and present solutions should they be needed.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the Spring of 2018, the Houston Alliance of Latinx Arts manifested as a result of the publication of the NALAC Arts Equity survey. NALAC article about the study Announcement of HALA on Facebook. Initially founded by NALAC and HAA board member, Adan Medrano who, in early 2018 passed dual leadership to Angel Quesada and Benito Vasquez the meetings continued. The informal group held monthly meetings and partnered with various Latinx allied arts institutions to move the conversation of inequity and deficit towards advancement and education of the emergent Latinx artist communities. Glasstire posted and article about HALA. And by the end of 2018, more community members stepped into HALA’s Steering Committee: Henry Sanchez, Shayna Schlosberg, Marissa Vasquez, Sureya Mir. The pandemic created a challenging situation and many committee members dropped off due to financial challenges and/or time constraints. We have been a volunteer action group. Staying on were Quesada and Sanchez who welcomed the newest steering committee member, Emily Fraga-Chambers-Zech who joined in early 2020.
Since 2018 HALA has conducted meetings and operated under a non-hierarchical structure of leadership choosing to create a Steering Committee using consensus-based decisions via in-person polling from membership. Attendees of the initially monthly meetings have included creatives from a wide range of disciplines: visual, literary, culinary, and performing arts (theatre, music, spoken word); arts administrators, varied arts professionals, community leaders, and other allies that want to affect change.
We have met at various arts and non-profit spaces who are allied with the goals of the group: Arte Publico Press, MECA, TBH, HAA, Lawndale Arts Center, Garza Studios, to name a few. HALA is dedicated to keeping the Latinx arts community informed of news that impacts them and their future, and where possible creates situations where stakeholders can take part and create a difference that is possible.
Throughout the course of our meetings, HALA can take credit for the advancement of language equity in the Houston Arts Alliance granting process. Working with Antena, we modeled how a bilingual grant workshop was reasonable and simply put, necessary. Our Steering Committee members have consistently advocated for artist centric dialogues and a place for Latinx artists at the table for any policy decisions affecting the general arts community.
One of our central tenets has been fostering education for the new generation of Latinx artists and arts organizations about opportunities, processes, and management of arts funding in the greater Houston region.
Most importantly, HALA’s principles have promoted equitable funding for Hispanic/Latino/a/x/e/Mexican-American artists and arts organizations commensurate with the Houston regional area’s 47% population of peoples from Spanish speaking descent.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The museums, Chinatown, Gulfton, East End and Memorial Park.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Alice Valdez and her tireless advocacy in the Houston Latinx Arts community.
Photos courtesy of Angel Quesada & the Houston Alliance for Latinx Arts