A fire that broke out Tuesday morning at Winter Street Studios has damaged countless works of art and left many Houston artists without workspaces or gallery space. The fire, which began around 6:30 a.m., is being investigated as arson, according to the Houston Fire Department and numerous accounts from artists who work at the building.
The fire started on the first floor, in the studio for Bohemian Photography, a commercial photography business owned by Jack Potts. A GoFundMe for Potts states that someone broke into the studio, stole thousands of dollars worth of camera and production equipment, then set the fire. Per another artist at the studio, Potts is in the middle of switching insurance policies and is currently uninsured.
The Houston Arts Alliance has activated its Emergency Relief Fund, first created in 2020 to support artists during the COVID-19 pandemic, to help those whose studios were damaged. Donors can contribute to the fund at HAA’s website. FreshArts has also created a list of resources, including emergency grants, for those affected.
The 100-year-old building, which was once a furniture factory, was converted to artist studios in 2005. There are 77 studios in the building, many of them shared between two or more artists.
On Instagram, the hashtag #winterstreetstudios was filled with photos and posts from artists detailing the damage to their workspaces. That includes water damage from the sprinklers and hoses, ash, smoke damage, and structural issues with the building that may require it to be demolished.
Renters at the studios were supposed to carry liability insurance, [painter Erika] Alonso said, and many of them did not have coverage beyond that. Aside from the countless, irreplaceable works of art that have been damaged or destroyed—some of which had already been sold but not yet delivered to their new owners—artists have also lost computers, materials, tools, paperwork, and other essential business items.
“There’s all these little personal investments artists make over the years,” she said. “But all the artists are helping each other, which is a beautiful thing.” Alonso said she had additional insurance, and hopes it can help recoup the cost of replacing her supplies and cleaning up her studio.
Just terrible. Winter Street Studios is a great place, a vibrant part of the community in an area where it’s often too expensive for creative types to hang their shingles. They have had regular Saturday art markets that are always fun to visit, and our elementary school used their space in the past for fundraisers. I’d really hate for this to be the end for them. The link in the story for HAA’s website is where you can make a donation to help these folks out if you’re so inclined. Thanks very much. CultureMap, ABC13, KHOU, and the Chron have more.