This morning I attended a meeting hosted by the Center for Houston's Future encouraging input for the upcoming Cultural Plan being written for the city. The Arts & Cultural Heritage Indicator Report from the Center was distributed.
Most of the people attending were arts organizers rather than just artists or citizens. These were the people with the most at stake in the Cultural Plan which will be written over the coming year.
As long as I've been following Houston's struggle to develop as a major art center and to change its image as an energy-focused center of commerce, most of the ideas proposed were very familiar.
I gained two new perspectives:
1) The cost of working for artists in Houston has been going up to the level where Los Angeles and Brooklyn seem just as affordable places. This news came from Joseph Havel, Director of the Glassell School of Art and one of our leading educator of artists launching their careers.
2) Suburban demand for arts organizations is surging, as well as a desire for higher visibility for their cultural institutions.
The desire for a better art market in Houston, with higher prices being offered for locally produced work, and more opportunities for selling work also resonated.
We also discussed whether the art market in Houston is depressed by a desire to avoid exceptionalism, a fear of singling out high talent and maybe snubbing other hardworking and popular artists. If we do want to keep artists in Houston (and I'm not sure we do), then we have to let their prices rise to the international level.