MECA began in 1977, growing out of the St. Joseph Fun ‘n Food Fest, the first citywide celebration of the various cultural groups that lived in inner-city Houston. St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the Old Sixth Ward led the festival; the church’s pastor, Father Sam Rosales, asked MECA’s founder and executive director, Alice E. Valdez, to build upon the spirit of community created by the festival by developing a program that would provide alternative arts activities for the city’s youth and families. MECA received 501(c)(3) status and was incorporated in 1979; in 1993, MECA moved to its current home, the historic Dow School (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), where it continues to serve as a vital cultural hub for Houston’s most underserved communities. Rehabilitation of this site began in 2008 and continues despite challenges presented by economic recessions and a global pandemic. Most recently, MECA completed a full roof replacement and restoration of the building’s exterior envelope. Current capital projects include the conversion of its cafetorium into a state-of-the-art, 185-seat theater, and the addition of an elevator to bring the building into ADA compliance.
MECA programs are nationally recognized for producing talented student artists; recently, the National Endowment named the advanced Mariachi ensemble an American Masterpieces Touring Ensemble for the Arts.
MECA at TBH Center
Nestled in East End neighborhood, the TBH Center is located at 333 S Jensen Drive.
TBH's exterior is decorated by local artists that poured love and paint to express the unique culture here in Houston.
This facility was the home of Talento Bilingue de Houston (TBH), a bilingual English-Spanish theater company founded by Arnold Mercado in 1977 (no longer active). Originally located in the Casa de Amigos Community Center in Northside, it moved to the Ripley House Community Center in the Second Ward in 1979. In 1995 TBH was granted a $992,000 Community Development Block Grant through the City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department and with this funding, they converted a former grocery store in the Second Ward into their new home. Nestled between the Guadalupe Plaza Park and Buffalo Bayou in the East End, less than a mile from downtown Houston, the building is an 18,000 square foot facility that includes a 240-seat theater, professional dance studio, rehearsal room, a gallery space, commercial kitchen, and administrative offices. In 2019 MECA responded to a request from Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner, and began managing the space to offer similar services as it does at its home in the historic Dow School thus preventing the city from losing the predominantly Latino cultural hub and community center. MECA continues to lease and operate the building from the City of Houston Convention and Entertainment Facilities Department.
Mayor's Office Press Release