City of Houston Donates $250K to Emergency Relief Fund for Winter Street Artists

by Jessica Fuentes February 17, 2023

Yesterday, Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner announced that the City of Houston is donating $250,000 to the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) Emergency Relief Fund for artists affected by the Winter Street Studio fire

On December 20, 2022, the Winter Street Studios, a 75,000-square-foot building that is part of the Sawyer Yards artist studio complex, sustained severe damage due to arson. The studio space was home to over 100 artists, all of whom have all been affected by the fire

Soon after learning of the extent of the damage, HAA activated its Emergency Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to Winter Street artists. To date, the organization has received 70 applications documenting a total of $2,500,000 in damages. As of February 16, the HAA fund had received nearly $70,000 in donations from 377 individual donors. HAA has also contributed $15,000 from its reserves to support the relief efforts. Additionally, HAA received support from local businesses, including Unbridled, which is housed in Sawyer Yards; Collaborate Architects, and Republic Services. Houston First Corporation and the Hobby Family Foundation have also provided support.

Last month, HAA began distributing funds of $750 or $1,500 to artists. With the additional donations, stipend amounts will be increased, and artists who already received funds will receive an additional distribution. These artists do not need to take any further action to receive their new disbursement. Affected artists who have not yet applied for the Relief Fund should apply before the February 28 deadline to be considered.

At a press conference yesterday, HAA Board Chair, Michele Leal Farah stated, “We are beyond thankful to Mayor Turner, known to our community as the Arts Mayor, for this historic gift. The HAA established the Disaster Services program just after Harvey because the community demanded a more secure future from disasters. Houston should be proud of this program. It is the only one of its kind in the nation, and it is supported by private donations from the community it serves. Artists and cultural institutions are a critical part of our City’s economy and community. Today, I am glad it is here to help the artists of Winter Street.”

Necole S. Irvin, Director at the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, added, “Artists share so much of their talent with our city, and this is when they need our help. When tragedy strikes, having a supportive community is essential. Houston would not be a vibrant city without the many individuals, businesses, and organizations that create. Thank you, Houstonians, for the continued support to the arts community in this and all things.”

A crowd of people stand in a severely burned building and hold a large check, which documents a donation of $250,000.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; Houston Arts Alliance Board Chair Michele Leal Farah; Winter Street Studios artists Gerardo Parra Jr. and Holly Nowak; Necole S. Irvin, Director at the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs; Executive Director of Fresh Arts Angela Carranza; and Nicole Peralta, Cultural Arts Director for Arts District Houston.

Mayor Turner remarked, “Born out of this tragedy is the knowledge that Houstonians are always there for each other. We are here for the affected artists and think of them in these trying times. With our help, we hope the artists are soon able to get back into their creative spaces and resume their contribution to the creative economy.”

Additionally, the Mayor encouraged fellow Houstonians to come together and match the City’s contribution. For more information on the HAA Emergency Relief Fund, conservation support, and to donate, visit

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