Scroll Top

How BIPOC-led arts organizations such as BANF are reshaping the future of art

Houston Cultural Treasures 6 - BANF

BANF’s Program Director, Sixto Wagan was recently featured in a story published by the Ford Foundation. The following is an extract of the publication.

Tell us about your organization’s mission and one current project you’re really excited about.

As a new organization, the BIPOC Arts Network and Fund works in the greater Houston area to bring together philanthropy, artists, and community leaders. We’re both a resource network and a place where people can learn from BIPOC arts communities. A lot of the work is about connecting and sharing knowledge.

Houston recently completed the process of nominating its Cultural Treasures. In 2023, applicants went through a process and we named 11 groups as anchor organizations for communities of color. Our first cohort will come together to dream, connect, and create. Underfunding has forced so many of our leaders to work in a state of constant crisis. They’re craving an opportunity to vision together.

Paul Robeson once said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” Do you agree with this?

Truth is a radical concept, particularly in a state like Texas, where schools are being told that they cannot teach the histories of our communities of color. Artists and arts organizations hold the truth and share it. They’re also creating opportunities to experience the truth in ways that are comforting, healing, and challenging. Part of our work is to uplift all of Houston’s diversity so that all our residents can experience that truth.

Why is philanthropic investment in diversity in the arts critical to building equality and ensuring that history does not repeat itself?

Philanthropy must be an advocate for communities of color everywhere. This is especially important in places where diversity and the lived experiences of our people of color are regularly challenged. So many major arts institutions have just begun to shift from focusing exclusively on white western history to lifting up the voices of Black, Latinx, and Asian communities. Some of that positive change is because of philanthropic leadership.

This National Black History Month theme celebrates African Americans in the arts. Which Black artists or creative organizations are catalyzing important change today?

The S.H.A.P.E. Community Center is one of our Houston Cultural Treasures. They just celebrated their 55th anniversary and they’re finally being recognized for celebrating Black history and highlighting its richness.

Read full story


About Houston Cultural Treasures:

Houston Cultural Treasures, chosen by BANF, have demonstrated exceptional community advocacy, cultural production, and connectivity. These institutions have played a critical role in enriching and uplifting Houston’s communities of color. Along with recognition, they receive multi-year general operating grants, aiding their continued influence on the city’s BIPOC arts ecosystem. The cohort includes notable organizations, including Arte Publico Press, Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, Community Artists’ Collective, Community Music Center of Houston, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Indo-American Association, Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts, Nia Cultural Center, Nuestra Palabra, SHAPE Community Center, and Silambam Houston.