A local organization is aiming to transform the way artists of color are presented in the Greater Houston area, by investing millions of dollars to provide opportunities to local artists who are often overlooked.
The BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) Arts Network and Fund, also known as BANF, is investing $6 million over the next three years to support artists of color in Houston. The organization awarded 25 local artists $20,000 each this past Sunday at the 2023 BANF Artist Awards to use as they see fit.
"So many of our artists and so many of our arts organizations have been under-recognized and underfunded throughout this," said Sixto Wagan, BANF Project Director.
Wagan said oftentimes communities of color are not granted the same opportunities in the arts industry which is why the investment is so critical for supporting artists in their artistic careers.
The organization worked for seven months before they launched the application to better see how they could support local artists. They wanted the process to be community driven and one way to do that was reaching out to community groups, such as Nuestra Palabra, Community Artist Collective, Mecca, and more who work directly with the artists to get a better understanding of how to design the process.
"I think it’s been important for us to understand how deep of a pool of artists is in Houston, and also be able to invest in artists – not just because of the great art that they make, but because they invest back into communities," said Wagan. "And one of the important parts of BANF is understanding community, is understanding how our organizations and our artists are connected to each other – so we can be able to support each other in good times as well as in times of crisis."
390 applicants applied during the first round of funding, many who were impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic and are still recovering. Wagan said the funding is life changing for a lot of artists.
"Everybody has a history of work and has a strong career, but to be recognized outside of the people you directly serve is an important and significant moment," he said. "So it’s not just about creating a piece of work, but actually investing in them and their future career."
For 18 months, the artists will engage in a learning community, where the artists will come together every other month to learn and educate each other and the BANF organization.
The awards was also an announcement of the new Initiative, the Houston Cultural Treasures, a two-year, $5 million investment into arts organizations that have played a major role in the community and the lives of individual artists.
"It is recognizing the organizations who have been around for 15 years or more who have been doing the work and who have continued to influence artists, audiences in our communities for generations," said Wagan. "It is an opportunity for us to invest back into them as they have been investing in us and we are looking forward to giving them grants of $100 to $500,000."
Applications for the second round of funding will open up in 2024, awarding 25 new artists.