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Follow the Leader

Hometown “sheroe” alumna Caroline Docwra (M.A. Arts Leadership ’17) helps Houston’s artists realize their dreams.

If you ever have a chance to speak with Caroline Docwra (M.A. Arts Leadership ’17), she might tell you about her affection for the people of her hometown. “I love the people of Houston,” she says, “There’s lots to do and see, but it’s the people of Houston that make these experiences possible.” But no matter what she says, you will definitely walk away knowing that she’s from Alief. Docwra grew up in in the multicultural community in the Southwest section of the city and like many of her neighbors and classmates, she was a first generation American. “My parents moved to the U.S. one year before I was born, finding themselves in an American community made up of families from all over the world,” she shared. She says that Alief is still her most beloved part of Houston. “My all-time favorite places there are Tan Tan, Live Oak Grill, 85 Degrees Bakery and Bellaire Sandwich Shop which I’m lucky to have right around the corner from my house.”

After graduating from Alief-Hastings High School, Docwra chose to pursue a career in medicine at UH, studying for a biology degree. “I knew that whatever I ended up doing, I wanted to help people,” she explains. She soon realized there were other ways to do what she loved and help people at the same time. She took on an art history minor and then completed the M.A. in Arts Leadership Program hoping to help others through the arts. Today, Docwra serves other as a grants coordinator at Houston Arts Alliance (HAA). The organization affords Docwra the opportunity to serve the greater arts and cultural community.

“I love just sitting down with artists and arts organizations and answering their questions,” Docwra says, adding that she enjoys helping applicants realize that they can get funding for their ideas. “The biggest hurdle for most people is just realizing they can do this,” she says. “And I hope that’s what HAA can provide: encouragement and motivation for them to try and accomplish their dreams.” 

Docwra’s path to her dream job has been influenced by a diverse range of experiences that have impacted her both personally and professionally. Here are three things that helped her on her unique journey to becoming a Houston arts leader:

Her love for the Museum District: “I fell in love with art history my sophomore year of college and spent a lot of time at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), finishing my art history minor,” Docwra says. “I love museums and art because it was about the people, the artists and the viewers.” She says that her favorite memories include working at Houston Center for Photography (HCP), where she interacted with some of the city’s smallest museum-goers and helped curate exhibitions for both local and out-of-town artists.

On growing up in Alief: “I grew up in the houses of my friends experiencing other cultures. We were all different and those differences bonded us. We also bonded through music, playing instruments together and sharing arts experiences.” Docwra says her sister is also in the arts, working as a stage manager. “My mom really didn't expect to have two daughters in the arts but she appreciates that we are both able to do what we love.”

On the power of perseverance: After graduating right before the recession on 2007, Docwra says she experienced some initial difficulty finding a job in the arts, but her patience and persistence paid off. Eventually, she was able to find a job at a small theatre company in Fort Bend County. “It took a while,” Docwra says, “But I learned a lot about running a small shop and from there on it’s been all-arts, all-the-time!”