Big art footprints to fill

LA hotshot returns to Houston as new Fresh Arts director

LA hotshot returns to Houston as new Fresh Arts director

News_Fresh Arts_Ian Garrett_Dec 2010
Ian Garrett is the new director of the Fresh Arts Coalition. He will assume the job on Feb. 1 Photo by Don Schroeder

There's a fresh face at the helm of Fresh Arts, Houston's beloved coalition for small to mid-sized arts organizations. Ian Garrett has been selected to replaced the departing Mandy Graessle as the new executive director. Garrett is a nationally known arts administrator and co-founder of The Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts in Los Angeles.

Fresh Arts Coalition, founded by Marita Fairbanks in 2002, is a collaboration of original and thought-provoking arts groups that have joined together to raise awareness in Houston. Such arts organizations as Blaffer Gallery -- Art Museum of the University of Houston, Musiqa, Mercury Baroque, The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Dance Houston are members.

Garrett, who will assume the new job on Feb. 1, brings a solid background in arts infrastructure, along with dual masters degrees in lighting design and producing from CalArts California Institute for the Arts. He is lighting curator for Scenofest at the Prague Quadrennial and is the resident designer for the Indy Convergence, an annual artistic event in Indianapolis. His design credits include Permanent Collection at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (2006 LA Weekly Theater Award for best lighting) and Song of Extinction with Moving Arts Theater (2008 LA Weekly Theater Award for Production of the Year). 

The move is something of a homecoming for Garrett. With stints at Stages Repertory Theatre, DiverseWorks, and a degree in architectural studies and art history from Rice University, his Bayou city roots run deep. He also produced Week 42 of Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days / 365 Plays in Houston.

"Houston's spirit is simultaneously entrepreneurial, down-home and jet-set. Those qualities, along with its support for innovation in the arts, make it an uniquely exhilarating city. As executive director of the Fresh Arts Coalition, I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to lead within this community," Garrett said in a statement. 

Replacing the dynamic Graessle was no easy task. Under her leadership, Fresh Arts gained significant visibility. Events such as  Discovery Green’s inaugural Fresh Fridays series, the Fresh Fest free arts festival, and the recent ARTernative Fest in Sugar Land (in collaboration with Spacetaker) helped establish Fresh Arts as a force in the Houston arts scene.

Graessle has taken a post at Lemonade Day as director of buzz, where she will be working to establish a social media presence for the entrepreneurial organization.

“My greatest reward at Fresh Arts was working with our truly talented and humble arts administrators at these amazing organizations," Graessle said. "Their 'thank you’s' meant more than anything. I am truly in awe of this community."

"Fresh Arts extends its gratitude to Mandy for her leadership, passion and dedication over the past three years," said Fresh Arts board president  Karen Farber, "We wish her great success in her next adventure."

Farber is pleased with the choice of Garrett to continue Fresh Arts' momentum.

"We are thrilled to welcome Ian Garrett to Fresh Arts Coalition and back to Houston," she said. "Ian is a creative and innovative administrator who has a passion for Houston's arts organizations. He is the perfect person to lead Fresh Arts to its next level of excellence."