Fresh Arts to hold fundraiser gala as studio building recovers from fire

Art as an expressive medium can do wonders for the mind, and Houston nonprofit Fresh Arts looks to do just that by empowering local artists. 


However, a destructive fire at Winter Street Studios just days before Christmas 2022 looked to tear down these expressions. According to Fresh Arts Executive Director Angela Carranza, it is one of the many warehouses in the Art's District in the Sawyer Yards area, that houses more than 70 artist's studios. 

"It's been my work home, since the beginning of my time with Fresh Arts, and we heard the news about the fire at the time, we didn't really know the extent of the damage if it got to our office, how fast it spread," Carranza said. "We've learned that the fires had the smoke impact nearly every single studio in the building. So the entire building right now aside from Fresh Arts is displaced, so everyone's had to move out." 

"The artists have significant damage to their art, their supplies, and materials, furniture," she continued. "So in many senses, everyone has been impacted. Even Fresh Arts even though we didn't lose artwork, and we didn't experience the same amount of damage that the artist did, we've also been displaced." 

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News of the fire came as a horrific shock, and so many thoughts came to mind. 

It was so sickening," Carranza said. "Thankfully, it happened when we had planned to have the office closed because my heart just sort of sunk to ‘what if our team was there?’ ‘What if I was there?’ So thankfully, no one was hurt."

Coupled with the incident occurring on the heels of Carranza completing her first year as executive director, she was left to make big decisions in the face of calamity. 

"My mind just sort of shot into what do I need to do? Do I need to call our board of directors? File an insurance claim? What needs to happen? What is the chain of command that needs to be informed? And what can I do to make sure that our services aren't interrupted?" she continued. "The second thought was, ‘oh, my gosh, these artists have been impacted. What can we do, as an organization that looks to support artists, what can be done?’"

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However, in true artistic resiliency, Carranza said they are bouncing back thanks in part to several people coming to support artists and the organization itself. 

"I feel like the arts in the art and artists, in particular in Houston are so resilient," Carranza said. "You know, this is not the first incident that's happened within the arts community. We've had Harvey, we've had COVID. and time and time again, artists in the creative community find ways to overcome situations. So with Fresh Arts pivoting our programming and leaning on community partners that have reached out to support us… we lost our office space, but Sesh Coworking in Midtown offered their space to us, so we had been working there the past several weeks, we also lost access to programming space for an artist's residency program." 


The artists that are here in the building, you know, they've had a much harder time. And they are overcoming it in different ways," she continued. "Some of them are finding new outlets in which they can still showcase work that wasn't damaged. And many of them, they're still in recovery mode, either cleaning their artwork, they're trying to see what they can salvage and trying to think what's next."

Because there's still a lot of work left to be done, and by way of turning tragedy into triumph, Fresh Arts will be holding a gala fundraiser called Thunder Ball at Silver Street Studios on Edwards St. 

(Photo courtesy of Like Minds Talk)

Proceeds from the gala, which will be held Saturday, February 25 at 8 p.m., will be used to continue the mission of strengthening Houston's arts community.

Fresh Arts fundraiser gala in 2019 (Photo courtesy of Like Minds Talk) 

This year's gala will be even more special as it's the first one they've hosted in person since 2019.

"Our last couple galas were unfortunately canceled due to the pandemic and the scale of support works directly with our operational expenses, so it's our staff salaries, it's our healthcare benefits. It's, you know, our rent here for our office," Carranza said. "Our programs are nothing without those that put all of their time and attention and creativity, and heart into this program. So, it's vitally important that this fundraiser, we're able to meet our goals, and that, you know, the general public is interested in what we do and interested in the event and want to have a good time."

Attendees who register for the event will be enamored by the arts entertainment, as well as exciting performances, and enjoy creative cocktails. Costumes are also encouraged as it's an electric party themed with secret agents, hair-band rockers, and glamorous villains! 

You can learn more about the Thunder Ball gala and register for it by clicking here. To learn more about Fresh Arts, visit their website and if you'd like to make a donation directly, you may do so by clicking here.