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Houston’s Beloved Fresh Arts Gala Is Finally Returning With More Super Costume Zaniness — Get Ready for Thunder Ball

More Than 50 H-Town Artists to be Showcased

BY // 02.23.23

Like the phoenix, Fresh Arts is rising up from the ashes with a fiery new gala dubbed Thunder Ball. 

After three years of canceled galas due to COVID and further disruptions from the devastating Winter Street Studios arson attack that ravaged the art mecca in December, the artist nonprofit is finally returning with its annual costume gala this Saturday, February 25. This year’s Fresh Arts ball promises to be a night to remember, with 450-plus guests mingling in an electric party den. Expect extravagant outfits, unique cocktails, memorable arts entertainment and a sizzling silent auction that will showcase more than 50 Houston-based emerging artists. 

Fresh Arts' Glow Ball honors those who champion Houston artists and creative entrepreneurs.
In 2019, Fresh Arts’ Glow Ball honored those in our community who share our mission to champion Houston artists and creative entrepreneurs to succeed in the business of art.

For Fresh Arts’ new executive director Angela Carranza, this Thunder Ball is very special, as it is her first gala in her new role. Having spent over a decade with the organization, she is often reminded of the power of Houston’s art community. 

“Houstonians have shown up for us time and again,” Carranza says. “This kindness and compassion is a beautiful reminder of the incredible impact that can be made when we come together to support one another.

“I look forward to a beautiful evening surrounded by the city’s vibrant arts community and supporters to raise the funds needed to continue Fresh Arts’ mission of empowering local artists.”

A defining feature of a Fresh Arts gala is its out-of-this-world costumes, which revolve around a different theme each year. Previous balls have had titles such as The Crystal Ball, The Space Ball and even CheeseBall. Fresh Arts founder Marita Fairbanks has been working with artist Kasi Kubiak for years to create special gala outfits. 

Elizabeth Anthony

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OLYMPIA LE-TAN
EMILY P. WHEELER
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MARIA OLIVER
KATHERINE JETTER
MEREDITH YOUNG
LEIGH MAXWELL
MEREDITH YOUNG
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Marita Fairbanks brought some serious hair to The Gum Ball in 2015, just one of the zany themes Fresh Arts has brought to the table. (Photo by Morris Malakoff)
Marita Fairbanks brought some serious hair to The Gum Ball in 2015, just one of the zany themes Fresh Arts has brought to the table. (Photo by Morris Malakoff)

“We will brainstorm ideas, we tweak things here and there, and then Kasi brings our entire vision to life,” Fairbanks says. “She truly is a genius and I am so lucky to work with such a talented artist. Whether it’s Dot Matrix from Space Ball, Starry Starry Night or our take on Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, each costume is even more spectacular than the last.”

This year’s theme Thunder Ball is inspired by the 1965 James Bond movie Thunderball. Expect to mingle with glamorous Bond girls in 1960s attire and men in vintage wetsuits with scuba gear, or classic tuxedos, as well as secret agents, hair band rockers, glorious villains and more. In keeping with the time period of the film, Fresh Arts tapped Joshua Martinez of Modular Goods, a Houston-based mid-century modern antique dealer, to style the Secret Agents’ Safe House VIP lounge with era-specific pieces.

Thunder Ball event chairs Kimberly and James Bell, Kaleta Blaffer Johnson and John Domolky, Jennifer and Blake Perrin, and Karla Modesto and Sebastien “Mr. D” Boileau are excited to honor Jorge Garza, owner of Garza Studios, and philanthropic power duo Dana and Taft McWhorter.

Fresh Arts, which works out of Silver Street Studios’ neighboring Winter Street Studios, has only recently begun moving back into its offices. Proceeds from this ball will not only help fund Fresh Arts’ operations, but will also help the nonprofit continue its efforts with local partners to support community recovery from the fire. 

Thunder Ball will take this place Saturday, February 25, from 8 pm to midnight at Silver Street Studios (2000 Edwards Street). Learn more here.  

Scroll through the photo gallery above this story to see the most eclectic and eccentric costumes from past Fresh Arts galas.

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