season notables

Winter Holidays Art Market Celebrates Its 10th Edition

By Layne Lynch | November 02, 2015
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Photo courtesy of Fresh Art

The growth of the Houston artisan community is nowhere more apparent during the holidays than at the Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM)—an annual three-day pop shop that has evolved significantly over its 10-year history.

What patrons of the well-attended exhibition may not know, however, is that the art shop was born out of a last-minute necessity rather than a detailed planning process.

“The Glassell School of Art students put on an annual show that for one reason or another didn’t happen one year, and so many local artists had come to rely on that event as a source of revenue and sales,” says Fresh Arts Executive Director Jenni Rebecca Stephenson. “A few of them went to Jon Deal, who owns Winter Street Studios, and asked if he would consider letting them host an event at the studios, and the rest is history.”

What began as a few dozen artisans displaying curated works for a crowd of casual shoppers has grown in strides. In fact, nearly 100 makers including photographers, printmakers, jewelers, sculptors, fashion designers, painters, woodworkers and more plan to showcase their handcrafted original works, arts and crafts at the Heights gathering amidst live music, food truck cuisine and holiday libations.

Through WHAM, Houston creatives generate an influential revenue stream, which flows right back into their artistic community. Instead of buying impersonal big-brand commercial goods in crowded retail centers, Houstonians are able to meet their local makers face to face and develop a lasting relationship with them because of the holiday event.

“The first year we had about $30,000 in sales, and last year we reached $150,000. In all, we’ve been able to put over three quarters of a million dollars back into the local artist community,” Stephenson says. “We’re hoping to reach the million mark this year, and from the way we’ve seen it grow over the years, I think we’ll be able to do it.”

Tracy Carlson, a Texas photographer and multi-year WHAM participant, says that the bustling market has become a platform for her personable, discussion-prompting prints. “I’m not lying when I say it’s the weekend I look most forward to during the year,” she says. “This is one of the few events in town that is literally only about supporting artists, and it’s such an honor to have that at our fingertips. WHAM creates an amazing platform for local artists, and it’s influenced our artist community profoundly.”

Perhaps the true magic of WHAM is its flypaper appeal. Infectious holiday shopping fever and Houston’s unfailing support of artisans and creatives fuels shoppers’ desire to support their talented makers.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned through WHAM, it’s that Texans want to support Texans,” Carlson says. “Art is so personal, and Houston shoppers appreciate knowing the story behind materials. Without WHAM, I don’t know if we’d see as many pop shops and local markets as we do today.”

WHAM is hosted by Fresh Arts, an organization that supports local artists and Houston arts organizations. WHAM takes place at Winter Street Studios (2101 Winter St.) on November 20–22, 2015. For more information, visit

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