December 27, 2022
Dear Fresh Arts friends and supporters,
2022 proved to be a year of powerful transformation for Fresh Arts as we celebrated 20 years of being a nonprofit. We’ve expanded our creative placemaking programs, revamped our artist resources, added new team members, and promoted some of our longtime employees.
However, as we enter 2023, we are experiencing unexpected challenge as Fresh Arts and the Winter Street Studios artist community recovers from a destructive building fire that occurred on December 20, 2022. The impact has been devastating for the 100+ artists and businesses who make their art and livelihood within those walls. Several artists have tragically lost everything and dozens of others will be displaced without a place to work, including Fresh Arts.
While the damage to our office is not significant, we will be displaced as power is restored and repair work begins. Fortunately, if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s how to work remotely as a team.
Despite this disruption, Fresh Arts remains committed to supporting our artist community. With local partners including Houston Arts Alliance and Sawyer Yards, Fresh Arts is working on recovery and fundraising efforts to aid those affected by the fire.
Aside from office operations, Fresh Arts programs, services, and events will continue in the new year — including the 2023 Fresh Arts Gala, the Thunder Ball, happening on Saturday, February 25th. However, the timing of this situation comes just as Fresh Arts’ gala underwriting campaign is underway. The gala is our biggest fundraiser, raising between 15-20% of our operating revenue, which directly supports the salaries and health benefits for our dedicated team, the organization’s beating heart.
I humbly ask that you consider making a tax-deductible underwriting pledge for the Thunder Ball or make a general donation to ensure the continuation of Fresh Arts’ ability to serve as a support system and advocate for the Houston arts community.
What is my donation funding?
Funds raised from the Thunder Ball, including the art and lifestyle auctions, support Fresh Arts’ operating costs and fund our artist-centered programming which includes:
* free/subsidized professional development programs for artists, like workshops and Artist INC Houston
* free digital resources like the Artist Opportunity Board, Artist Registry, Artist Resource Library, downloadable toolkits, Art on Tap newsletter, and Resource Newsletter
* development of new local artist projects through our Fiscal Sponsorship program and Space Taking Artist Residency
* public art commissions and free performances in Arts District Houston
* day-to-day operational costs like rent and utilities
* salaries and benefits for our tiny but mighty staff of five
Don’t you receive grant funding for this stuff? Why do you need donations?
Most of our grant funding is project-based, which means it doesn’t cover general operating expenses like salaries and benefits for our staff. Without our fantastic five staff members, there’d be no one to run our programs! Plus, our professional development programming and resources for artists are primarily funded by individual donations.
How was Fresh Arts impacted by the Winter Street Studios building fire?
Fresh Arts’ office, C1, is located at Winter Street Studios just a few studios away from where the fire occurred at Jack Potts studio, C6. The building, owned and managed by Deal Co., sustained structural damage as a result of the firebombing, and unfortunately, like our artist neighbors, Fresh Arts has lost the use of our offices, the Arts District Houston Welcome Center, and the gallery space where we host the Space Taking Artist Residency (STAR). This limits our staff capacity and ability to interface with the artists and general public we serve. Our staff can work remotely, but we urgently need programming space for our spring and summer STAR artists.
Fresh Arts Office Update 2/17/23: We are delighted to announce that we have quietly begun moving back into our office space just in time for Thunder Ball preparations! Fundraising/planning for our first post-pandemic gala while also pivoting our programming to provide recovery support has been challenging to say the least. Funds raised through the Thunder Ball are vital to our nonprofit operations so we are incredibly thankful for everyone’s support to promote this event.
Special thanks to our AWESOME friends at Sesh Coworking for offering their dynamic space for our team to work together during our 8 week displacement.
Space Taking Artist Residency program update 3/16/23: Thanks to a partnership with MECA, the 2023 residency has found a new home at the historic Dow School building located in the Old Sixth Ward. Built in 1912 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, MECA has a long history of serving the community through the arts and serves as an important anchor in the Arts District. The 2023 Space Taking Artist Residency at MECA will be adapted to the new space with a new program timeline. More info coming soon!
Is Fresh Arts working on relief efforts for affected Winter Street artists?
YES! Although we are a small staff and have been impacted ourselves, we have actively been distributing resources and information for affected artists and are pivoting our January/February programming to continue supporting artists. This includes partnering with Houston Arts Alliance on the Winter Street Disaster Relief Fund. Together with partners Sawyer Yards and HAA, we raised over $11,000 through an Art Fundraiser held on Saturday, January 21st at Silver Street Studios.
We are also working on a series of info sessions and resource gatherings for WSS artists. We’ve also hosted a Q&A session on navigating insurance claims and accounting-related questions in partnership with TALA and will continue a working collaboration with Houston Arts Alliance to provide additional workshops in the future.
Fresh Arts’ Recovery Resources for Winter Street artists:
For more information on the fire and relief efforts:
Will Fresh Arts receive disaster relief funding for the Winter Street Studios fire?
No, that funding is restricted to individual artists only.