Winter Street

Bohemian Photography owner Jack Potts stands in front of his destroyed studio at Winter Street Studios in Sawyer Yards. The community has come together to support Potts and other artists who had their work and studios damaged or destroyed in the Dec. 20 fire. (Photo from GoFundMe.com)

Jack Potts is having to rebuild everything. For seven years, he has nurtured what he called a hub for everyone at Bohemian Photography at Winter Street Studios in Sawyer Yards.

But now, everything is gone. Potts said he lost most everything related to his work – which he conservatively estimated to be worth about $250,000 – as a result of the fire that was set last week at Winter Street Studios.

“Every piece of gear I had collected, saved for, sacrificed to buy, was destroyed in a few hours,” he said.

But supporters say the community is also coming together to support Potts and other artists who had work or studios – or both – damaged or destroyed in the fire.

“I hate those old clichés of how good comes out of tragedy – it’s the truth though,” said artist and Leader columnist Mitch Cohen, who hosts the Market at Sawyer Yards by Winter Street Studios. “I’ve watched it happen all week.”

Many artists had studios and work either damaged or destroyed at the studio as a result of the fire that broke out in the early morning hours on Dec. 20. According to the Houston Fire Department, crews from stations 15, 6, 8, 17, 19 and 30 first responded to the studios at 2101 Winter St. at 6:17 a.m. on Dec. 20. The fire began, Potts said, at Bohemian Photography.

“When I arrived I saw more and more fire trucks and I realized things were much worse than I had imagined,” said Potts, who got a call that morning to go check out the fire. “As I got closer I saw the fire had been coming from my studio. I got that queasy feeling seeing the fire trucks and the smoke coming from my studio that this was somehow my fault.”

It was not, however. According to the Houston Fire Department, arson investigators believe the fire was intentionally set, and had identified a suspect late last week. According to a report from KHOU, the alleged arsonist killed himself last Thursday when authorities came to take him into custody.

As a result of the fire and its effects, those such as Potts and fellow artist Taylor Clendennen are struggling with where they will land. Clendennen has two commissions she said need to be done by the end of January, but no place to create them, and also has no place to host her workshops or studio events.

“Where will I work while the studios are cleaned and building is repaired? Will I need to permanently move? How will I generate income for the next month without having (those events)? Trying to navigate all these thoughts and scenarios has been tough,” she said. “Just the uncertainty of what lies ahead in the next couple of months has been the difficult aspect both myself and other artists are having to deal with.”

Potts echoed the sentiment.

“Emotionally I would say I haven’t had enough time to process everything,” he said. “I built almost every piece of furniture, hung every light, and designed the functionality of that space for over seven years.”

Coming together

However, in the aftermath of the devastating fire, many said there has been an overwhelming amount of support and assistance given to the affected artists and creators that called Winter Street Studios home.

The Disaster Services Program for the Houston Arts Alliance has set up a support page to help artists at ready.haatx.com/. A friend has even set up a GoFundMe for Potts and Bohemian Photography at https://www.gofundme.com/f/fire-at-bohemian-photography-jack-potts, which had more than $22,907 donated as of Wednesday morning.

Potts has also set up a support page on the studio’s website at bohemianphotography.com/fire.html for people who feel compelled to help.

“I’m typically the giver in most scenarios, and this has been a little difficult for me because now I’m in a position where I need to receive support and help,” he said. “…I want everybody to know how much I appreciate their support. From a friend buying me lunch to people who have given financially to help me rebuild…it is all humbling to see how many people care.”

But that support Clendennen said, is no surprise to those in Houston art world. She said they have always been one to pick each other up. From the GoFundMe to the HAA’s support page, all the way to artists from the Silos in Houston taking it upon themselves to help salvage pieces from Winter Street, it has always been what they do.

“Those types of actions really show what it’s like to be part of our art community,” she said. “It’s hard enough being an artist, so when disaster strikes, we are there for each other.”

And even though he may not know exactly what the immediate future holds as far as rebuilding his entire studio, Potts is determined to make the best of it.

“For myself, I see no other option than to rebuild,” he said. “Not just for myself, but for all the people that I have supported through images or production, or even just as a place to learn and grow.”

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