Christmas Comes Early: WHAM is Here

Christmas is coming early for all you art lovers out there - the 7th Annual Winter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) is just around the corner. The annual holiday market, filled with wares from local artists, takes place November 16 through 18 at the Winter Street Studios and it's not just a shopping experience; it's a party.

WHAM is a product of art purveyors Fresh Arts. As the story goes, WHAM's original iteration was that of a student art sale hosted by the Glassell School of Art. When Glassell decided to stop producing the sale, it was handed over to Winter Street, which is when Fresh Arts, then Spacetaker, took it on. Tying into the start of the holiday season, Fresh Arts have been producing this celebration of art since 2006.

Fresh Arts Executive Director, Jenni Rebecca Stephenson, has seen the market grow over the years and expects this year to be their biggest yet, especially given the recent merger between the two arts organizations Spacetaker and Fresh Arts Coalition. The growth of the market has been easy to track in terms of cold hard cash. In 2009 the sales from the art market were roughly $43,000 and just three years later that number doubled to $89,000.

"Since its launch, WHAM has generated more than $300,000 for hundreds of local artists and continues to grow as an important venue for Houston artists," Stephenson notes.

The WHAM artists are chosen through a submission process where they are ranked in specific categories pertaining to quality and presentation, among other aspects. Another thing the judges look for is originality; WHAM doesn't want any run-of-the-mill out-of-the-box art.

One such artists is Valerie G. who sells her craft under the nom d' plume Cultured Critter Collective. This will be the Critter Collective's third WHAM, and this year she will be bringing a new collection of hand-sewn Steampunk toys and plush monsters.

Artist Maria Tiscareno's, Flippy Baby, features baby shoes inspired by the rococo period. They are made of silk, lace, faille and other fine fabrics and decorated with fancy buttons, flowers and ribbon. This is Tiscareno's first WHAM, and she couldn't be more excited or nervous.

Other artists to be on the look out for are Pen Morrison, Lee Wright and Thomas Irven. Morrison, a first time WHAMer will be selling his original "Guitar Series" prints. Wright, another WHAM virgin, creates hand drawn pictures of celebrities on Post-it notes. Wright is not sure if he's more excited to show off his work or to finally get some well-deserved rest.

"I haven't slept in four days as I am pushing out enough work to show...so I don't know if I'm excited about the show or if I'm excited about the prospect of sleep after the show," says Wright.

Stephenson is excited as well about all the WHAM newbies.

"Of the 60 artists on display, 20 are new and have never participated in WHAM before. There will be a lot of the historical favorites, but it's exciting to see an infusion of new faces and new talent."

In addition to the art-shopping, there will be entertainment, DJs, live music and more.

The 7th Annual Winter Art Market is free and runs November 17 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and November 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a kick-off preview party (ticketed) Friday, November 16 at 6 p.m. WHAM is held at the Winter Street Studios. For more information visit spacetaker.org/wham.

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