After Harvey, who preserves our culture?

The organized arts and humanities generally don’t save lives directly during emergency situations. Yet they save our culture — our shared memory — over the long run. Here are some ways the state and national communities are responding to Harvey and where the help will be most needed.

The Rockport Center for the Arts after Hurricane Harvey. Contributed by Rockport Center for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Humanities has pledged $1 million to cultural groups hurt by Harvey.

The National Endowment for the Arts is working with the Texas Commission on the Arts to assess the situation. NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu: “As the current situation stabilizes, the NEA is prepared to direct additional funds to these state arts agencies for re-granting to affected organizations, as we have done in the past.”

The Texas Library Association and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working to coordinate a response for the affected library community.

While some smaller arts facilities have been devastated on the coast (see image from Rockport), the massive Houston Theatre District has sustained enormous damage, as it has in previous storms (much of it was built underground not far from Buffalo Bayou).

At the Alley Theatre, the small Neuhaus Theatre and its lobby were flooded. The same spaces were severely beat up during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

The Wortham Theatre Center, where Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet perform, took water on the Brown Theatre stage and out front of the house. The basement with its costume and prop storage, however, was totally flooded.

On the other hand, the Hobby Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, came off relatively unscathed, although the parking garages were inundated.

Heidi Marquez Smith is new exec at Texas Cultural Trust

The former head of the Texas Book Festival will now lead the Texas Cultural Trust.

Heidi Marquez Smith takes over as executive director at the statewide arts advocacy group after the departure of Jennifer Ransom Rice. 

Heidi Marquez Smith is the new boss at Texas Cultural Trust. Contributed

“As a long-time, passionate advocate for literacy and the arts, I am thrilled to be part of an organization that promotes the vital role of the arts in education and actively supports our state’s many talented artists and educators,” Marquez Smith says. “I look forward to advancing the work of the Trust to build awareness of the quantifiable impact of art in the classroom and the Texas economy, and the important role of the arts in building a competitive workforce for the future of our state.”

Most recently a consultant with her own firm, Marquez Smith is actively involved in the leadership of the Texas Lyceum, St. David’s FoundationDell Children’s Trust and Texas Book Festival. She also volunteers at Eanes Elementary School, Hill Country Middle School, Eanes Education FoundationPop-Up Birthday, LBJ Presidential Library and the city of Rollingwood.

Perhaps most impressively, she served as Special Assistant to the President for Cabinet Liaison under President George W. Bush.

It takes quite a diplomat to run the Trust, which hands out the Texas Medal of Arts in a grand biennial ceremony; directly promotes arts education; and meanwhile attempts to convince Texas legislators to support dollars for the arts. Recently, that august body reduced funding by 28 percent, which means that soon only $6 million will be spent by the state each year on the arts. By way of contrast, the city of Austin alone spends $12 million.

IN-DEPTH: Legislature cuts Texas arts funding 28 percent.

How will the federal axe to arts, humanities and public broadcasting affect you personally?

Eighty programs would lose federal funding under the president’s proposed budget. Among the independent agencies to be eliminated: Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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That doesn’t mean that what these agencies do would go away altogether. There’s still a lot of politics to go before they turn out the lights.

And, as the New York Times reported, Republicans legislators are lining up to fight for the NEA and NEH, for instance.

Also, all three endeavors maintain strong support from donors and others, especially in urban area such as Austin.

As some observers have pointed out, the cuts will hurt rural, low-income voters the most, since all three agencies are required to distribute their services fairly evenly across the country.

So how do you expect these cuts to affect you directly and concretely? We want to know. You can leave a comment here or send a short note to mbarnes@statesman.com.