LA hire only lasts 10 months

Big changes at Fresh Arts: Ian Garrett fired as director, merger with Spacetaker discussed

Big changes at Fresh Arts: Ian Garrett fired as director, merger with Spacetaker discussed

Fresh Arts Spacetaker
Spacetaker and Fresh Arts have worked together before. Now, there's talk of merging.
News_Fresh Arts_Ian Garrett_Dec 2010
Ian Garrett Photo by Don Schroeder
Fresh Arts Spacetaker
News_Fresh Arts_Ian Garrett_Dec 2010

A changing of the guard is in store for Fresh Arts Coalition. The nonprofit arts organization is looking for a new leader.

Executive director Ian Garrett, who took over the top spot at Fresh Arts in only February of this year, has been dismissed from his position, CultureMap has learned. 

"Fresh Arts is moving in a different direction from Ian's leadership," Karen Farber, the coaltion's board president, says. "We had a difference of vision."

 "Fresh Arts is moving in a different direction from Ian's leadership," Karen Farber, board president, tells CultureMap. "We had a difference of vision." 

Fresh Arts Coalition was founded by Marita Fairbanks in 2002 and serves as a marketing arm for small to medium-sized nonprofits, with the goal of raising the visibility of their work in Houston. Organizations in the conglomerate include Musiqa, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts — where Farber serves as executive director — Aurora Picture Show, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater and Inprint, among others.

"I wanted to try a new bold and ambitious approach to grow Fresh Arts," Garrett tells CultureMap. "I felt the board was behind me and understood my methodology upon my hire. At some point, they became more concerned with the core programs that existed rather than pursuing new opportunities."

Garrett moved from Los Angeles to Houston for the job. He was co-founder of The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts in LA. At Fresh Arts, he replaced Mandy Graessle — who took a position with Michael Holthouse's Lemonade Day — as director.

Since taking over the executive desk, Garrett launched Fresh Arts Society, an initiative which could be seen as being in direct competition with member organizations Fresh Arts aims to support. He also started Fresh Arts Media — a proposed $400,000 project designed to create programming for national television broadcasts and downloads through iTunes and Hulu that saw very little financial support and never got off the ground.

"Part of Fresh Arts' vision is to directly fulfill the desires of our members," Farber says. "We received a range of different kinds of feedback related to our activities, and we are 100 percent committed to ensuring the needs of our members are met."

 Garrett says informal talks on Fresh Arts merging with Spacetaker began during his tenure. 

For now, though the position executive director position remains open, there are talks of a possible Fresh Arts merger with Spacetaker, a slightly larger organization serving mostly individual artists and small nonprofits in the realms of educational support and economic development. 

"Right now, there is nothing to report on a merger," Farber says. "We are exploring options to ensure the future success of Fresh Arts."

Garrett says informal talks of merging with Spacetaker began during his tenure. He says he had been working on bridging the gap between arts service organizations in an effort to increase dialogue and provide more comprehensive offerings. Spacetaker and Fresh Arts have a history of collaborating in education workshops and outdoor festivals like Julydoscope at Discovery Green and the ARTernative Festival at CityCentre and Sugar Land.

Some of those collaborations predate Garrett, who's unsure if he'll stay in Houston or not in the wake of the sudden dismissal. With prior stints at Stages Repertory Theatre, DiverseWorks and a degree in architectural studies and art history from Rice University, Garrett's Bayou City roots run deep.

"If there is a silver lining, is that I had the chance to reconnect with many people in Houston," Garrett says. "I foresee many collaborations in the future. The Houston arts community was very welcoming. It was one of the joys of coming back."