On the heels of a debate over a $3 million contract to hire musicians to play in Houston’s airports, Mayor Sylvester Turner is coming back to council asking for more art funding: he wants council to authorize a $24 million (maximum) contract to “provide the commissioning of new art work and conservation for the General Services Department and the Houston Airport System.”

The contract would be between the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA), a quasi-government funded nonprofit charity, and the city for a maximum of five years. It comes at the request of the director of the mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the city’s chief procurement officer and would be funded from various departments’ civic art budgets.

HAA provides grants to artists and organizations in an effort to increase the amount of art found around the city. Their mission, they say, is to “commission, conserve, and promote public art, and to enliven public spaces on behalf of the City of Houston.” HAA’s board partly consists of mayoral appointees and is subject to the Open Meetings Act.

HAA will seemingly act as an intermediary providing a “professional service” and charging a fee to the General Service Department and Houston Airport System on a per-project basis.

For projects between $50,000 and $150,000, fees are not to exceed 13 percent (between $6,500 and $19,500) and fees for projects above $150,000 are not to exceed 15 percent. Anything under the $50,000 mark will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

HAA’s expected duties under the contract consist of “managing the artist selection process, negotiating artist contracts where appropriate, purchasing art on behalf of the City, project management, and assisting in closing out the projects.”

Houston City Council is set to consider the issue tomorrow at their regular meeting.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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