(Houston, TX, January 19, 2023) – The Idea Fund, a re-granting program administered by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses and funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, is thrilled to announce the selection of 12 projects by Houston-based artists to receive $5,000 each for The Idea Fund’s Round 16 (2023) grant cycle. 

Grantees will present their projects to the public at the 2023 Award Presentation on Feb. 1, 2023, 7:00 PM, hosted at Aurora Picture Show, 2442 Bartlett St, Houston, TX 77098. Round 16 grant recipients are as follows: 

Tay Butler, Baird Campbell, Brian Ellison, Jake Eshelman, Marley Foster, Naomi Kuo, Ruhee Maknojia, Matt Manalo, Eileen Maxson, Alexis Melvin, Lorena Molina, and Sarah Sudhoff.


The Idea Fund supports innovative, experimental, public-facing visual art projects that expand our understanding of how art exists in the world or exemplify new ways of working in, for, and with community. A total of $60,000 will be distributed to 10 artists and 2 collectives selected from 89 eligible applicants by a three-member multidisciplinary panel composed of experts from the field. 

The Idea Fund Round 16 marks 14 years of grants to artists in the Greater Houston Area. Since its inception, The Idea Fund has supported 157 visual art projects involving over 505 artists and collectives. 

Round 16 was juried by Mesha Arant, Manager of Administration & Programs at 3Arts, Chicago, Illinois, Vinod Hopson, artist and Idea Fund Grantee, Round 8 and 15, Houston, Texas, and Leslie Raymond, Executive Director Ann Arbor Film Festival, Ann Arbor, Michigan. 


Tay Butler – The Play

The Play is a live performance and installation work that reorients basketball away from an output of Black culture, and reframes the sport as a tool to serve Black culture. With support from The Idea Fund, Butler will develop a live performance and installation work intended to bring viewers into the entanglement of community, collective assembly and the uncertain path to achieve basketball greatness. 

Baird Campbell – The Big Queer Pop Up

The Big Queer Pop Up seeks to expand the reach of queer cinema beyond traditional cinematic spaces through pop-up screenings in community centers, bars, parking lots, and other public spaces. As a guerrilla-style initiative, this project will allow The Big Queer Pop-Up team to meet queer people where they already are and activate existing community hubs through projection, and not in the rarified spaces to which queer film is often relegated.

Brian Ellison – Napoleon’s Vanishing Point

With support of The Idea Fund, Ellison will develop the community film Napoleon’s Vanishing Point. Asking –What would it look, sound and feel like to capture a community that is rapidly disappearing due to being swallowed by gentrification? Napoleon’s Vanishing Point tells the story of Ellison’s neighborhood in Houston’s Third Ward and the people in it. His block is one of few blocks that still communes daily via barbecue, card games, music, dominoes, disagreements and laughter. 

Jake Eshelman – (Bio)Diversity Bonds: Mapping Houston’s Ecological Heritage through Native Bees

(Bio)Diversity Bonds is a hybrid art exhibit and guided nature walk with the Houston Arboretum. (Bio)Diversity Bonds empowers Houstonians to identify, celebrate, and support the many native bee species that have helped create the unique coastal prairie ecosystem that cradles our city, its people, and our astounding (bio)diversity. With support from The Idea Fund, Eshelman will conduct a visual field study of local pollinators in the Houston Arboretum prairie and develop an expert-led community nature walk that enables participants to meet and identify our native bee populations firsthand.

Marley Foster – Flag Diary (What Protects)

Flag Diary (What Protects) is a new program of public works developed through a series of community quilting workshops. With support of The Idea Fund, the workshops will accompany an exhibition of the same name at Art League Houston. Workshops will focus on patchwork patterns and embroidered text, considering quilts as familial diaries and testing how these complicated objects speak the language of public discourse.

Naomi Kuo – Garden Connections

Garden Connections is a project that traces the web of relationships that are built up over the exchange of seeds, home-grown veggies, and gardening know-how in the Asian American communities of Houston. Through documentary mixed media zines and garden exchange events, Kuo will use their Idea Fund grant to expand on the healing potential of these everyday practices and to celebrate the concrete bonds that help keep communities together.

Ruhee Maknojia – Outdoor Animation Screening

Animation artist Ruhee Maknojia will use their Idea Fund grant to develop and present a series of outdoor animation screenings in the Greenspoint Mall parking lot as a way to highlight international and Houston-based animation artists outside of the city center. 

Matt Manalo – Alief Art House Residency

With support from The Idea Fund, Manalo will develop and host the Alief Art House Residency, a three-week long residency for a high school Senior to explore art-making and have full creative freedom in the Alief Art House shipping container gallery.

Eileen Maxson – Heirloom Haggle with the Maxsons

Tempered with good humor and influenced by audience engagement, Heirloom Haggle with the Maxsons, is a series of livestream videos in which artist Eileen Maxson’s parents try to convince her to inherit their most beloved “stuff.” The multiple livestream “episodes” will be a twist on the Antiques Roadshow TV series and focus on items from Maxson’s parent’s massive collection of porcelain collectibles, Hummel figurines, fine china, and crystal stemware.

Alexis Melvin – Trans History Roadshow

The Trans History Roadshow is an educational TV Show that will air locally in Houston and be made available for viewing online. Modeled after BBC/PBS series “The Antiques Roadshow,” the Trans History Roadshow will feature guest experts presenting examinations and explanations of select art and rare historical artifacts from Houston area transgender art and history archives.

Lorena Molina – At what cost? (working title)

With the support from The Idea Fund, Molina will develop a large corn maze installation with over 2000 pieces of dried corn stalks inside a gallery to discuss topics of immigration, safety and freedom, and who gets to feel safe and free. The installation will ask visitors to consider their instincts in the process of moving through the maze while highlighting the challenges of diasporic journeys and immigration experiences. 

Sarah Sudhoff – Exit Interview

Exit Interview is a multi-sensory exhibition that invites the Houston public to give voice to an unheard conversation they were either never given permission or never had the opportunity to have with a romantic partner or loved one. With support from The Idea Fund grant, Sudhoff will develop a series of new works through community collaborations that will harness and embrace our collective humanity through shared humor, love, sadness, and perseverance. 


The Idea Fund introduced me to the vibrant Houston arts and culture scene. Choosing this year’s grantees was an extremely difficult task because of how rich and innovative the projects were. I look forward to watching the 2023 projects progress and look forward to keeping up with the Houston creative community. – Mesha Arant

Mesha Arant is a Chicago-based musician, arts administrator, and consultant. She is currently the Manager of Administration & Programs at 3Arts, a nonprofit arts organization that advocates for women artists, artists of color, and Deaf and disabled artists. She also serves as the organization’s accessibility coordinator, assuring that all communications and programs are accessible to their constituents. In 2020, she was selected for the Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship through Americans for the Arts (AFTA) and in 2019 she was awarded an Interfaith Innovation Fellowship through Interfaith America, a fellowship awarded to five people who cultivate ideas and projects that creatively address social issues through an interfaith lens. Her project, In Tune, brought artists from different religious and philosophical traditions together to collaborate and create work around themes of birth, shame, joy, and death. She is currently a board member at Sustain Music & Nature and serves as the Secretary of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility board at the iO Theater (Chicago, IL) and as a Steering Committee member for the Black Interfaith Project through Interfaith America. She received her B.A. from Wofford College and a Master of Divinity from Yale University.

As a former grantee, I was honored to be included on the jury panel for this year’s Idea Fund. The grant was vital seed money for a project that has continued and expanded over the years since I received it. It also connected me to a supportive network of artists and arts groups that were just as important as the money. I sincerely hope that these grants serve this year’s recipients as well as they did me. 

The applications were dynamic and diverse in the ways they engaged contemporary art and the public. The jurors were careful and thoughtful in our discussions. The recipients’ projects are all very deserving of the support, and I look forward to seeing them come to fruition.Vinod Hopson

Vinod Hopson is an artist and storyteller. His project, Those Who Desire, explores the lost, often difficult histories of the city of Houston through tours and cartography. Hopson’s research and stories center people and places of color obscured by dominant, white narratives and histories. Past tours have focused on Houston’s Downtown, historic Freedmen’s Town, and the 1917 Camp Logan Uprising. His current research focuses on the Brazos River, west of Houston, on whose banks the state’s first slave plantations were established, the first Texas millionaires were made, and where Jim Crow tactics were first tested large-scale. In 2021 and 2016, he was awarded support for his project from The Idea Fund, a re-granting program funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and administered by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses. Hopson received a BFA in Photography and Digital Media from the University of Houston. He was born in New Jersey and has lived in Houston since 1996.

It was an honor to be invited to jury this incredible pool of talent. Thank you for the opportunity. Houston is lucky to have so much creative activity and The Idea Fund for support. I wish we could have awarded more money to so many deserving projects.Leslie Raymond.

Leslie Raymond joined the Ann Arbor Film Festival as its executive director in August 2013. In September 2019, Raymond’s leadership role expanded to include festival programming. Prior to her position with AAFF, as a teaching artist and educator, she founded the New Media Program at University of Texas at San Antonio and served as an assistant professor of art in digital video and new media art at Oakland University, where she was recognized with an Innovations in Teaching award. Raymond is a Film Festival Alliance board member, and a third-generation American of Chinese and Jewish descent. She holds a BFA in film/video from the Rhode Island School of Design, MFA in new genres from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design, and also studied film, video, and new media art at the Art Institute of Chicago.