Dozens of Houston Artists’ Studios Damaged by Fire; Houston Arts Alliance Launches Relief Support

by Jessica Fuentes December 21, 2022

On Tuesday, December 20, a fire broke out at Winter Street Studios, a building that’s part of the extensive Sawyer Yards artist studio complex in Houston. While dozens of studios throughout the building sustained smoke damage, artist Jack Potts lost most of his business equipment at his Bohemian Photography studio. Additionally, the building itself may have structural damage.

A photograph of the exterior of the fire-damaged Winter Street Studios.

The exterior of Winter Street Studios. Photo by Taylor Clendennen.

According to the Houston Fire Department, the fire was caused by an incendiary and is being investigated as a possible act of arson. Mr. Potts, who has maintained his studio space at Winter Street Studios for seven years, has said that his business may have been targeted. Since there is an ongoing investigation, he has declined to publicly identify the person he suspects of setting the fire. Holly Nowak, a multidisciplinary artist and educator with a nearby studio, told Houston’s Eyewitness News that surveillance video shows someone entering Mr. Potts studio, stealing equipment, and running out quickly after the fire began. 

A photograph of the fire-damaged hallway inside Winter Street Studios.

The hallway inside Winter Street Studios. Photo by Angela Woodhouse Walling.

Other Winter Street Studio artists have detailed the damage to their studios via social media. In a Facebook post, mixed media artist Taylor Clendennen described the extent of the damage, stating that all of the studios have some amount of smoke damage and that both ground level and upstairs hallways, which were lined with artworks, are full of soot. Glass artist Nicole Bolinger, whose shared studio with Ms. Nowak, Chrissy Doolen, and Steph Barker, is adjacent to Mr. Potts’ studio, explained via Facebook that though they have not been allowed to enter their space, it is clear that the damage is extensive.

A photograph of a man standing outside of a fire damaged building. He looks at his hands as he holds damaged camera equipment.

Jack Potts stands outside his damaged Bohemian Photography studio.

A GoFundMe campaign was initiated yesterday to raise funds for Mr. Potts. At the time of this writing, the fund has raised $12,035 of its $50,000 goal.

Earlier today, the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) announced that it is also activating its Emergency Relief Fund to provide stipends to Winter Street Studio artists affected by the fire. Artists seeking relief can apply for emergency funds, and people wishing to donate can do so at HAA’s website.

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