Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Awarded $50K from National Endowment for the Arts to Study Arts and Cultural Equity

The Achieving Arts and Cultural Equity in South Texas research team

The Achieving Arts and Cultural Equity in South Texas research team is (from left): Dr. Oliver Cruz-Milan, Jim Moore, Dr. Tianxing Chu, Shelly Rios, Dr. Andrew Johnson, and Principal Investigator Kelly Bezio, Ph.D. The team also includes Dr. Michael Starek and Joshua Duttweiler.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC) has been selected by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to receive a Research Grants in the Arts award of $50,000. This grant will support “Achieving Arts and Cultural Equity in South Texas: A Mixed Methods Study.” 

Island University researchers from the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Engineering, and Business, along with the School of Arts, Media, and Communication will work together on the project to study the opportunities and costs associated with adopting or failing to adopt strategies in support of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in arts and culture in South Texas.

The principal investigator for the study is Dr. Kelly Bezio, TAMU-CC Associate Professor of English and Graduate Coordinator for the English Master of Arts program. Key additional partners include the Corpus Christi Arts and Cultural Commission and the City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department.

“An inclusive, equitable approach to how we invest in arts and culture is essential to Corpus Christi’s financial prosperity, livability, and growth,” Bezio said. “We are delighted that the support from the NEA allows us to collect essential data to help plan a bright future for our community.”

The team wants to know how to engage more citizens and tourists in Corpus Christi’s arts scene as well as how to better represent the richly diverse cultures of this region, which are key engines of long-term prosperity, according to Bezio. Data collection from focus groups, surveys, and archival sources will help gain an understanding of how diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA)-focused arts and culture opportunities are distributed geographically across Corpus Christi.

By analyzing the study’s data, Bezio said it would be possible to evaluate several effects of DEIA-related art and cultural assets on:

1) increasing awareness to better serve a diverse population with arts and cultural services

2) developing a holistic and inclusive understanding of the needs and opportunities for

building arts and culture

3) increasing livability of the city and positive impacts on the quality of life for all residents

4) enabling the promotion of Corpus Christi as an inclusive and welcoming destination for a

diverse range of visitors, and

5) cultivating future visitation and expenditures, which contribute to jobs generation and

overall economic activity

In addition, a graduate student from the TAMU-CC’s Measurement Analytics (MANTIS) Lab will transform the data into interactive, visual maps.

“The maps will help determine where costs incur or opportunities emerge for DEIA-centered arts and culture and what principles, parameters, and recommendations the community may consider to support future development,” Bezio said.

In total, the NEA will award 20 Research Grants in the Arts this funding cycle for a total of $1.075 million to support a broad range of arts-related studies, many of which strive to understand how factors related to DEIA can improve the efficacy of arts management and cultural policies. 

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support this project from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, part of the NEA’s investment in studies that explore the value and impact of the arts,” said Director of Research & Analysis Sunil Iyengar. “Research studies such as this one are key to our agency’s goal of understanding the factors, conditions, and characteristics of our country’s arts ecosystem and the many ways the arts can impact other areas of American life.”

For more information on other projects included in the NEA’s grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.