Arts / Galleries

James Bond Is Brought Back to Life in Houston’s Zany Arts Gala — Fresh Arts Brings the Thunder

Emerging Houston Artists Spotlighted

BY // 03.09.23
photography Charlie Horse Photography

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fresh Arts hosted its regular annual gala again, an electric night of zany costumes, dancing, live music and fun for Houston’s art community. 

Thunder Ball brought more than 400 partiers to Silver Street Studios. The massive warehouse space was converted into a James Bond-themed party den with fluorescent lights bathing the room in red and blue. Projectors showed scenes from James Bond movies. A checkered dance floor channeled the 1960s. Acrobats even dangled from the ceiling.

VIP guests enjoyed a private lounge with Bond-themed cocktails and tried their luck at casino tables. 

Miller Quevedo, Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee, Angela Carranza, Alton DuLaney at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Viva La Marx Photography)
Miller Quevedo, Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee, Angela Carranza, Alton DuLaney at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Viva La Marx Photography)

In the center of the room, not to be missed, were the artworks for the silent auction, showcasing more than 50 emerging local artists. This would end up accounting for almost 30 percent of the total funds raised by the gala — the most successful silent auction in Fresh Arts’ 20-year history. Event chair and artist Sebastien “Mr. D 1987” Boileau entertained with a live painting performance, creating a spray-painted piece that was later included in the silent auction. 

The evening honored artists and philanthropist couple Dana and Taft McWhorter, and Garza Studios founder Jorge Garza for their contributions to the arts in Houston.  

Honorees Dana & Taft McWhorter at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Charlie Horse Photography)
Honorees Dana & Taft McWhorter at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Charlie Horse Photography)

It’s impossible to talk about a Fresh Arts gala without mentioning the costumes. Despite being the theme, the 1965 Bond film Thunderball merely served as a jumping off point for the creative and eclectic outfits seen this evening. Secret agents and scuba divers mingled with super villains and creatures from a variety of fantastical movies. There were even some who interpreted the theme in a more celestial way and donned outfits inspired by natural phenomena, bearing lightning bolts, rain, clouds and the sun. 

Elizabeth Anthony

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Fresh Arts founder Marita Fairbanks stunned in an unforgettable Octopussy-inspired costume, an enormous leopard-print octopus dress, while her husband JB Fairbanks wore a Bond-inspired suit. The event chairs wore their best 007 inspired outfits, including James Bell‘s “Number 2” costume and Karla Modesto‘s “Domino” costume.

Fresh Arts founder Marita Fairbanks & JB Fairbanks at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Charlie Horse Photography)
Fresh Arts founder Marita Fairbanks & JB Fairbanks at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Charlie Horse Photography)

As the night went on, guests found themselves on the dance floor enjoying thumping live music, including a performance from Tree G Music and a choreographed Sinatra dance routine by LeAndre Douglas. The night was fuelled by catering from various local businesses including Phoenicia Specialty Foods and Common Bond Cafe, and four Arts District businesses: Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, City Orchard, Henderson & Kane and Betelgeuse Betelguese.

Fresh Arts executive director Angela Carranza called it one of the wildest and most memorable balls in her 12-year history with the nonprofit. 

“I’m incredibly thankful to all of our faithful supporters and new friends who made this event such a huge success,” Carranza says. “It was inspiring to see everyone come together, embrace the theme, and help Fresh Arts continue to support our artists. The energy in the room was unmatched and our arts community looked as vibrant as ever.” 

The gala raised more than $165,000. These funds not only sustain 15 to 20 percent of Fresh Arts’ annual operating cost, but also help the organization continue its work with local partners to recover from the devastating 2022 Winter Street Studios fire. Through these efforts, Fresh Arts is able to continue supporting local artists.

Emily Schreiber, Tamar Mendelssohn, Alene Coggin, Austin Thomas (Fresh Arts board member) at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Viva La Marx Photography)
Emily Schreiber, Tamar Mendelssohn, Alene Coggin, Austin Thomas (Fresh Arts board member) at Fresh Arts Thunder Ball (Photo by Viva La Marx Photography)

PC Seen: Houston Arts Alliance CEO John Abodeely, Council Member Karla Cisneros, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs director Necole Irvin, Houston Airport System curator of public art Alton Dulaney, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Riel Restaurant’s Mechelle Tran, Vy Hopkins, BeDesign’s Adrian Dueñas, Dr. Marcus de Guzman and Jessie Diaz, Midtown Management District’s Cynthia Alvarado, and Fresh Arts’ board members Isabelle Kafarela, Matthew Kelley, James Phelan, Jackie Staple, Austin Thomas, Rassul Zarinfar, and Tina and Josh Zulu.

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