Place and Community: Fresh Arts at stARTup Houston 2019


stARTup’s mission is to champion under-recognized artists, and to empower them in their careers. This includes working with artist collectives and non-profits who sustain diverse communities of working artists.

Joining Visual Arts Alliance, Yazda, and Clark Hulings Fund for our first edition of stARTup Houston we’re working with Fresh Arts, a non-profit dedicated to strengthening the sustainability and vibrancy of Houston’s arts sector by bolstering the capacity and professional practice of artists and arts organizations and enhancing the public’s engagement with the arts.

Fresh Arts fiscally sponsors art projects throughout Houston, hosts professional development workshops and networking events for the creative community, and provides access to resources that help artists and small arts organizations do what they do best.


In Room 316, three Fresh Arts artists will be exhibiting their works expanding on place and community. Here’s a preview of what you will see in their room!

Dana Caldera is a visual and installation artist living and working in the Houston Heights. Her work focuses on human interaction and individual identity. Dana expands, “I am interested in representing our interactions with others, specifically strangers. I explore the moments in a relationship where our impressions about others and our place in the community are forming.”


She continues, “I think about identity and empathy. Who are we and how do we portray that to others? How are we seen? I work often from found photographs and materials, drawing inspiration from the images of people who are strangers to me. I layer in collage elements and mixed media figures or abstract mark making. Most of the pieces require you to get close. There are moments of intimacy and recognition within the larger composition. Meditating on my work reflects the process of getting to know someone for the first time.”

three of me.jpg

Leslie Gaworecki has been a full-time artist for the past 15 years. After moving often and living abroad for much of her youth, she received a BFA in photography from The Ohio State University and found her way back to Texas. Leslie spent the next decade photographing people and events across the country and teaching herself to paint.


In 2016 she began showing paintings in her Houston studio and in exhibitions within the city. Leslie’s most recent work explores longing for place — places from the past, places called home, unseen places of the future. Mostly acrylic with some mixed media, her painting practice is driven by color and the surprises that happen when she releases expectation.


Leslie lives with her husband and four young sons who inspire her mark-making and her tendency toward whimsy.

Melissa Walter received a BFA from East Carolina University and a MFA from the University of Georgia. She has also studied at Penland School of Crafts and in Cortona, Italy. Like her fellow exhibitors, Melissa’s current works explore “place and community” through abstract prints. She says, “I have come to the conclusion that it is not a place but people that have the most impact on my life and therefore also on my artistic practice. The prints begin as overlapped silhouette drawings of people who have influenced my life and view of Houston, as well as other places I have called home. In some areas the figures become apparent, in others they fade away becoming more of a landscape or map of place.”


Melissa has exhibited at Goldesberry Gallery (Houston, TX), The Ohio Crafts Museum (Columbus, OH) Mighty Tieton Warehouse (Tieton, WA), Flatbed Press and Gallery (Austin, TX), and Slocub Galleries (Johnson City, TN). She has been published in several books; such as The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, and Inspiration by Linda Darty and Paper Jewelry (Design and Make) by Sarah Kelly. Melissa was an artist-in-residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in 2011-2012 and continues to live and work in Houston, TX.


You can find a complete list of our Houston 2019 Non-Profit and Community Partners on our Sponsors page.

Sign up for the newsletter and follow us on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes moments and details about our fairs — like stARTup Houston. Buy advance tickets online now and save!


Feature by Content Curator Mica England