The Houston Boychoir will be honoring Jonathon Glus, President + CEO of the Houston Arts Alliance, at our 4th Annual Scholarship Luncheon. We sat down with Jonathon, to discuss growing up in an artistic family, the Houston Arts Alliance and the cultural atmosphere of our city!
1.What is your background in the arts?
I am not an artist. I grew up in a family of business people who placed a great emphasis on the arts. My father played about 12 different musical instruments, owned a jazz club at one time and both of my sisters are singers. In fact my father’s great dream was to have a family band. We grew up with art around us, it has been an integrated part of my life. In fact, I never knew that it wasn’t part of everyone’s life until I went to college. I do what I do now, because I realized not everyone has access.
- How did you get involved with Houston Arts Alliance?
I was recruited for the Houston Arts Alliance in 2007 when the board was looking for someone who was very eager to build a new model for a public-private local arts agency. I was eager to take on the challenge. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to work with a very smart invested board who wanted to build a new organization to serve the entire city.
- In your opinion, what is the fundamental purpose of Houston Arts Alliance?
My main purpose is to ensure that every American should have complete access to arts. In a country as affluent as the United States, it should be a natural and fluid part of our lives.
The work of the Houston Arts Alliance on a daily basis, in a very practical sense, is investing in arts organizations and artists through grants; helping to produce stronger arts organizations through capacity building; beautifying our public spaces through civic art; and elevating the cultures of our very diverse city. Ultimately the purpose of HAA is to advance the city in the best way possible through its arts culture.
- What is the biggest challenge regarding the public’s perception of arts in Houston?
The perception of Houston as a cultural city is quickly evolving, we’ve had great institutions for a long time. However, I don’t think Houston has done a great job of talking about them because we’ve been busy building them. In addition to that, we need to talk about Houston- not as a great cultural city- but as a city of great art. We need to start changing our narrative so that we’re talking about the fact that this is a vibrant active city that has so much theatre going on. People know that Chicago is a theatre city, people know that London is a theatre city. People don’t think of Houston as a theatre city and we need to tell that story a lot more.
- What are you most proud of achieving in and through HAA?
I’m most proud of strengthening, reinvigorating and bringing additional resources to our HAA capacity building programs. We brought the Arts & Business Council to Houston to provide a variety of resources to the field; we’ve partnered with the Houston Endowment to expand our incubation services to start up organizations; and we will soon be launching the new Jamail Family Innovation Grant and the Heimbinder Program Support & Expansion programs soon.
- What advice do you have for anyone who would like to get involved with the arts community?
CEO’s say that their biggest need is creative thinking, so training as an artist is giving you skills that- in addition to your craft- can take you to many places in life that are important. As a culture, America is waking up to the fact that the forces of being trained as an artist is really important to the way we function in communities now. I think there’s never been a better time to be an artist in this country than right now! And I say it with great envy because I am not an artist. I took dance for years, clarinet for years, piano for years! When you train as an artist there is a fundamental way of looking at life that drives everything that you do. You may make a career of it or you may not, but it will always be a part of you enhancing your world and the world of your community.