Meet Angela Carranza, Fresh Arts’ New Executive Director

Angela Carranza / Photo courtesy of Fresh Arts

Fresh Arts, a nonprofit that provides resources and support to local artists, recently announced Angela Carranza as its new Executive Director, effective February 1, 2022.

Carranza succeeds Marci Dallas in the position. Dallas had served as Executive Director since 2016 and is now embarking on a Ph.D. program.

With over a decade of experience within the organization, Carranza will lead Fresh Arts, which aims to help advance the careers of Houston-area artists and creative entrepreneurs of all disciplines. Its programs and resources cover marketing, finances, fundraising, legal issues, health and self-care for artists, and other issues. The organization also offers an artist residency and a podcast that tackles artists’ challenges.

In 2011, Carranza joined Fresh Arts, then called Spacetaker, as an intern and has since served as Administration + Operations Assistant, Programs + Artists Services Manager, and most recently Managing Director over the past year.

She holds a B.A. in Art History with a minor in Studio Arts from the University of Houston and has 18 years of experience in project management. Prior to her history with Fresh Arts, Carranza spent nearly a decade in the interior design industry as both a consultant and small business manager.

Angela Carranza / Photo courtesy of Fresh Arts

A lover of art adventures, hot dogs, and the Beatles, Carranza has also volunteered on committees for Barrio Dogs, Inc., United Way of Houston, and the Mayor’s Millennial Advisory Board for the City of Houston, according to her bio.

“In 2022, Fresh Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary. This milestone is a time to reflect on Fresh Arts’ past impact while also dreaming about how the organization can continue championing Houston artists in the next 20 years,” said Carranza in a statement. “I look forward to leading Fresh Arts and continuing to serve Houston’s vibrant community of artists.” 

Houston Arts Journal reached out to Angela Carranza for the following interview.

What can you share about your vision for Fresh Arts as Executive Director?  Any specific plans or goals?

My vision for Fresh Arts isn’t singular – it’s very much a shared vision, which includes our team members and board. It’s a vision that’s informed by the artistic community through conversations and surveys.

Artists will remain at the very center of what we do. They are who we aim to support with each program and resource, and they are the ones who also support us in our times of need – volunteering their time at our events, participating in our fundraisers, sharing our resources, and valuing us as much as we value them.

My goal is to use Fresh Arts 20th Anniversary to pause and reflect on our accomplishments and impact over the past two decades – and hopefully celebrate it with a “throwback” birthday party if the pandemic cooperates. 🙂

We are also looking forward to reconnecting with the artist community and deepening those relationships after two years with very little in-person programming. We can’t wait to see artists face-to-face in programs like Artist INC Houston, an eight-week peer-to-peer focused seminar; and the Fresh Arts Summit, an annual artist conference taking place this summer. We’re also planning an Artist Town Hall as an outgrowth of our 2021 Houston-Region Artist Survey to continue community dialogue and address the changing needs of those we serve.

It is also my goal to use this year to better communicate Fresh Arts’ impact through the stories of the artists we serve and highlight the important work that happens through our little-known Fiscal Sponsorship program, which supports over 30 projects doing amazing things in our city.

Lady of the First Ward” mural by Colby Deal. The artist is pictured with Cleola Williams in Brock Park. Williams led the effort to rename the park for Richard Brock, a freed slave and First Ward resident. / Photo by Gisele Parra

How do you think the needs of local artists have changed during the pandemic?  What do you think their needs will be post-pandemic?

The pandemic highlighted the fact that artists need so much more than just business skills. Mid-America Arts Alliance issued a series of surveys during the pandemic that captured the struggles that we all shared: loss of revenue, economic uncertainty, and loneliness.

Building off this information, Fresh Arts partnered with over a dozen local arts organizations this past fall to conduct the 2021 Houston-Region Artist Survey. We saw this survey as a chance for artists to tell us what they need so that we, along with partner organizations, can be better advocates for artists and help spark positive change in the Houston-area arts sector.

In light of the changes in the arts community over the past two decades – and especially the past year and a half – we wanted to gather Houston-area artists to assess the evolving needs of their professional creative careers, as well as the socio-economic factors that affect their quality of life, such as access to housing and healthcare. 

The results of our 2021 Houston-Region Artist Survey showed that “affordable studio/rehearsal space” and “places to perform or exhibit my work” ranked second and fourth on the list of local artistic needs that are not being met or are very difficult to meet. [Editor’s note: “Funding for individual artists” ranked first, and “more self-employment/income-generating opportunities” ranked third. See results here.]

So, for this year, and the next 20 years, Fresh Arts will be focused on how the Houston arts sector can better support artists and ensure that our community is one in which artists and culture bearers not just survive, but thrive.

From “Monumental Moments” art installation series at Buffalo Bayou Park by Anthony Thompson Shumate / Photo by Gisele Parra

As an arts nonprofit, how has Fresh Arts been impacted by the pandemic? How will you keep it healthy so that it can continue to support artists?

Like all small arts organizations, Fresh Arts faced challenges with revenue. Most notably, we have had to postpone and then cancel two of our gala fundraisers due to the pandemic.

Our #1 priority has always been to support local artists, and as we navigated how to best serve the artist community, we remained focused and flexible and adjusted our programming to address those needs. We pivoted, got creative, and took a crash course into providing resources digitally, even though we had no clue how to do a livestream before March 2020. In doing so, we reached new audiences and found new ways to engage in community dialogue and highlight more local artists than ever before.

Fortunately, Fresh Arts’ donor base – including our gala underwriters, local foundations, individual supporters, and especially our board members – recognized those efforts and have continued to support us. We are immensely grateful for that support. As we look forward, we will use those lessons learned and continue to remain patient and adaptable and focused on our vision and mission. 

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