Movers and shakers of the Houston Arts Resource Fair, Sarah Schellenberg, A+C Social Media Manager Candace Kizer, Jerome Vielman and K.C. Scharnberg.
PHOTO: MARK WOZNY

Houston Arts Alliance Launches the Inaugural Houston Arts Resource Fair

Being a professional artist is not for the weak. Money, fame, and even a decent living are hard to come by. A recent report on the high poverty rate of professional dancers brought the discussion of the sustainability of highly trained artists to a boil. Clearly, we need to head into this field with a solid plan.

During my art making days, I had a two-step business plan. First make a dance. Second, wait for phone to ring. The phone rang alright; it was my mother wondering when I was ever going to be able to support myself.

It’s hard out there, which is why Houston is lucky to have Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) partnering with several key arts organization to present Houston Arts Resource Fair on July 28, 9am-6pm at St. Thomas University. Come with an open mind and body, prepared to learn, mingle, and learn from other smart arts folk.

The Houston Arts Resource Fair is presented through a local consortium of arts service organizations including Dance Source Houston, DiverseWorks, Fresh Arts (Spacetaker + Fresh Arts Coalition), Houston Arts Alliance, Houston Theatre Alliance, Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP), and Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts (TALA).

HAA’s Jerome Vielman and Richard Graber first dreamed up the conference after attending the Chicago Creative Expo. “We knew we had to do one,” says Graber, HAA’s director of programs and services. Both Vielman and Graber have worked in the performing arts trenches and know first hand it takes more than talent and training to succeed. The discussions at the roundtable of the Artists Services Organizations also fed the momentum.

The Houston Arts Resource Fair is a free, full day info marathon on sustainability, survival, and practical advice. Topics covered include arts funding, housing, arts marketing, audience development, health insurance/services, capacity building, and business resources.

Experts will be on hand too. Stephen L. Klineberg, Co-Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research Rice University will deliver the plenary address on “The Changing Face of Houston: Challenges and Opportunities for the Arts.” Emily Gray from Fractured Atlas and Thomas Cott, the marketing director for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and others will be giving keynotes.

Cott knows the territory. “I came to this work as a playwright and director,” says Cott. “I come at this work as a creative person with an aptitude for business.” Cott is also well known to the Houston arts community from his daily e-newsletter, You’ve Cott Mail, a must read for anyone working in arts.

Cott plans an interactive talk, which will address topics provided by the participants such as Houston’s changing demographics, planning strategic partnerships, and innovative fundraising ideas.

“I think of it as a group conversation where I’m the facilitator. I want people to leave stimulated and perhaps think of something that was not in their perspective before,” says Cott. “There’s something about all of us being in the same room that moves things forward.”

Dance Source Houston executive director Stephanie Wong knows the power of arts crowds, having attended several Dance/USA conferences. “I fully understand the benefit of sitting in a room with your peers to learn from the experts and from one another,” says Wong. “It truly is invaluable, and I hope that attendees at the Resource Fair will leave empowered. I think the fact that we’ve structured the panels based on the needs of organizations separate from the needs of individual artists means that attendees will be able to find information that is very pertinent to their situation.”

Sometimes you need very specific help from specialized practitioners. Participants can also step up to the SmART bar for 15-minute sessions with experts in the fields of marketing, management, consulting, press, publicity, and arts development. Some of the SmART bar experts include Dan Workman (president of Sugarhill Studios), Leigh McBurnett (executive director of the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater), Matt Adams (president of the Visual Arts Alliance), and Chris Johnson (announcer at The Front Row and Classical 91.7). Five SmART bar sessions will be offered throughout the day.

There will also be a “fair” part of the fair, with vendors from the fields of marketing, management, consulting, press, publicity, production, building management, venues, lighting, audio, film, products, and arts development.

Wong sums up the value of such an event. “There are some very important, real world issues that affect our ability to be better artists and to reach a bigger audience. And it’s important to address those issues if we want our field to continue to grow. I think the Resource Fair will be a great place to learn about some of those issues and to start seeking solutions.”

–NANCY WOZNY



Houston Arts Resource Fair

July 28, 2012
Jones Hall, The University of St. Thomas
3910 Yoakum, Houston, Texas 77006