New/Now: The Houston Artist Commissioning Project was launched in 2020 with the goal to promote and sustain Houston’s working artists and artist communities by supporting the creation of new works across all performing arts disciplines. Each year the project awards 3-4 artists with commission funding to present original work in the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center as part of Performing Arts Houston’s mainstage season.

Houston is the most culturally diverse city in the nation. In celebrating artists’ voices here at home, we promote more connected and thriving communities. Performing Arts Houston believes Black artists, Indigenous artists, artists of color, artists in the LGBTQ+ community, artists with disabilities, and woman artists must be centered through this project. To that end, we strongly encourage applications from artists with these identities or members of other marginalized communities.

New/Now: The Houston Artist Commissioning Project is generously funded by the Cullen Foundation, Mid-America Arts Alliance, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the state arts agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

New/Now artist awards are made possible in part by the Performing Arts Houston Foundation through the Mattox Fund for New Works.

Applications for the 2023 cohort of New/Now: The Houston Artist Commissioning Project will be announced in August 2023.

Questions? Read through our FAQs sheet or contact us at

Live Commissions

Each season, a cohort of working performing artists are awarded commissions to create a new 20-25 minute work premiering in Festival Format on the Cullen Theater stage at the Wortham Center. Local artists are encouraged to apply for the 2023 New/Now awards!

Learn more about each cohort of winners below.

2022 HACP Live Award Winners

Anthony Brandt is a composer, researcher, author, educator, and Artistic Director of Musiqa, an award-winning new music ensemble. His musical catalogue includes three chamber operas, as well as orchestral, chamber, vocal, theater, dance, and television scores. Recordings of his music are available on the Albany, Crystal, and Navona labels. An advocate for closer ties between the arts and science, he co-authored The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World with neuroscientist David Eagleman and is currently a co-investigator in musical experiments involving seniors with mild cognitive impairment, stroke recovery, surgeon burnout, and dance. He teaches music composition and theory at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Brandt’s commissioned work, Diabelli 200marks the 200th anniversary of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, and in collaboration with neuro-engineer Dr. Pepe Contreras-Vidal, will explore the neural synchrony between the performers and changes in brain activity throughout the performance. Brandt will use Diabelli’s waltz and Beethoven’s approach to the variations as inspiration for excerpts of his own variations, scored for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, and cello.

Learn more about Diabelli 200 with this Education resource created for the piece by Musiqa.

Photo by Houston photographer Claire McAdams

Composer and cinematographer J.E. Hernández is a Mexican-born, Houston-based artist focusing on elevating personal and cultural narrative through his work. Hernández’s music has been performed at prestigious venues and by distinguished ensembles and organizations such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Houston Grand Opera, American Opera Project, Apollo Chamber Players, Foundation for Modern Music, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, American Composers Forum, the Brazil National Orchestra, and in a wide variety of films, both in the United States and abroad. He holds a degree from the University of Houston.

Hernández’s commissioned work, Desert Shelter, is an interdisciplinary exploration and highlighting of the experience of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border via the Sonoran Desert pass, told through music and dance. The arduous journey of migrants is physicalized through J.E.’s composition, scored for a string sextet, and a collaboration with The Ponce Project and NobleMotion Dance.

Photo by Houston photographer Claire McAdams

Born and raised in Luanda, Angola, Vivalda Ndula became one of the voices of the new generation of Angolan musicians that has made a significant cultural and international impact on today’s Angolan music. Ndula is an activist, singer-songwriter, percussionist, and dancer. She is a multi-award winning, nominated/finalist of StarAfrica Sound, (ISC) International Songwriting Competition, and Angola Music Awards (AMA). Through her music, Vivalda raises social awareness against child labor, modern slavery, and human trafficking with her award-nominated songs Mazui (voices) and Monandengue (children).

Ndula’s new work, Mbandu ni Mbandu, meaning “side by side,” is a music project composed of four pieces sung in Angola’s native language Kimbundu. Mbandu ni Mbandu examines ongoing social issues such as access to health care, racial injustice, and gun violence, and conceptualizes a world where people can live together despite their differences.

Photo by Houston photographer Claire McAdams

Born in Karachi, Pakistan and raised in Saudi Arabia, Tazeen Zahida writes plays in English and Urdu. Her plays are inspired by current affairs, social issues, family dynamics, and her experiences of living in the Middle East and America. She spearheads Houston’s only South Asian theatre company, Tee Zee Productions. Through her work, Tazeen intends to bring to life hard-to-tell and harder-to-sell stories. She is a literary translator and critic. She believes that poetry is the ultimate form of expression.

Zahida’s new theatrical work, And The Clay Pot Speaketh, retells a South Asian folktale about the love story of Sohni and Mahiwal from Punjab. The tragic romance will be told through musical pantomime with narration, supported by South Asian poetry and folk music.

Photo by Houston photographer Claire McAdams

2021 HACP Live Award Winners

Announced January 29, 2021

Performing Arts Houston announces six live performance award winners of the Houston Artist Commissioning Project (HACP). Chosen from over 60 applicants, the winners reflect the breadth, diversity, and extraordinary creativity of Houston’s working performing artists. The premieres of these new 15-25 minute works will be presented by Performing Arts Houston in Jones Hall, October 15 & 16 and November 12 & 13, 2021. Each artist will have two opportunities to perform their new work for live, in-person audiences. Tickets and additional information will be announced later this spring with the launch of the 2021-22 season.

While there were originally three live performance award winners planned for this phase of the project, we sought to respond to the need for support in our artist communities by doubling the number of awards given.

Harrison Guy has captivated audiences across the nation through his inspirational and unique works of passion, beauty, and activism that are rooted in African American history & culture. He began his dance journey in the small town of La Marque, TX, and building on his love for social dance and Hip-Hop he affirmed his purpose and calling by studying dance at Prairie View A&M University. He continued his studies at the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center, Sam Houston State University, Deeply Rooted Productions in Chicago, Dallas Black Dance Theater, and The Ailey School in New York. He was a founding member of both Exclamation Dance Company and Dorrel Martin’s Dance Fusion in Houston. In 2004, he debuted his dance company Urban Souls Dance Company at the city-wide dance festival, Dance Houston.

Say Girl Say with Two Star Symphony & Input/Output
Say Girl Say is a genre-bending multi-instrumental duo from Houston, Texas composed of members Brigette Yawn and Suad Ihsan. Their signature sound is known for articulate soaring vocal harmonies, lyrical finesse and entrancing melodies backed by eclectic instrumental production. In May 2015, Say Girl Say released their first self-titled record “Say Girl Say.” Since then they’ve performed at SXSW, CMJ, Art Outside, Houston Whatever Fest, River Revival, In Bloom and many others. In 2019, Say Girl Say was honored the opportunity to partner with sign language interpreter Amber Galloway-Gallego, who specializes in music interpreting, for a mini-docu series “Music Has No Bounds” sponsored by Dell, a collaborative experience that depicts the representation of the deaf and hard of hearing community and bridging the gap for cultural linguistic minorities in America by making meaningful and genuine connections through music.

Riyaaz Qawwali performs the gripping music style called qawwali, or sufi music. They represent the diversity and plurality of South Asia. The ensemble’s musicians, who are settled in the United States, hail from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh and represent multiple religious and spiritual backgrounds. Trained in eastern and western classical music, the members have been professionally performing qawwali for the past twelve years. With conservative growth and heightened attention to quality, Riyaaz Qawwali has performed across the continental U.S., in Panama and debuted in Europe in 2017

Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton is an internationally known writer, educator, activist, and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Houston, Texas. Formerly ranked the #2 Best Female Poet in the World, her work has appeared in Houston Noir by Akashic Press (2019), Black Girl Magic by Haymarket Books (2019), Fjords Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and on such platforms as NPR, BBC, ABC, Apple News, Blavity, Upworthy, and across the TedX circuit. She serves as a contributing writer to Texas Monthly and Glamour. Her most recent poetry collection, Newsworthy, won honorable mention for the Summerlee Book Prize. A German translation, under the title SayTheirNames, is set to be released in Fall 2021 by Elif Verlag.

Patrick “PJ” Davis is a creative and social activist based out of Houston, Texas and founder of the poetry troop Starving Poets, Ink. PJ has produced homegrown events such as the Starving Poets: Poetic House Party and worked with many other landmark events such as Poetry Lounge Houston, Houston International Jazz Festival and Tournament of the Stars. He has also been a pioneer on the arts scene co-producing and collaborating with many events from poetry, comedy, theater, jazz, live music and major festivals. He is the father of a beautiful daughter, Phoenix, and was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas.

Loop38 is a boundary-pushing, artist-driven new music ensemble that aims to build community around innovative, stimulating, and culturally relevant musical experiences. Loop38 cherishes opportunities to work closely with composers and artists from other disciplines to create unique artistic experiences. Past collaborations have involved the Rice University Theater Department, Apollo Chamber Players, the Moody Center for the Arts, WindSync, University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum, Musiqa, and several artists in residence at Sawyer Yards.

Houston Contemporary Dance Company (HCDC) is a fresh, brand-new arts organization whose mission is to ignite passion for contemporary dance by providing world-class professional repertory concert performances and community engagement activities that are accessible to all regardless of race, culture, sexual orientation, gender, gender variance, or nationality. HCDC aims to be a vital component in not only keeping contemporary dance alive in Houston, but to firmly position Houston as a cultural center for dance by building broad participation and support for contemporary dance.

Virtual Commissions

Check out the virtual award winners of the Houston Artist Commissioning Project. Awarded during the pandemic, these digital performances brought the performance stage to anywhere our audiences needed to be.

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