When Glendale artist Joy Feuer first visited the burned remains of the Cisco Homes warehouse in Pasadena, she looked beyond the charred furniture ruins and saw potential.

“Everyone kept saying, ‘There’s nothing left. It’s all destroyed.’ But I knew that something could come out of it,” she said.

Months later, Feuer’s vision became a reality when she founded ART from the Ashes, a nonprofit organization that creates art from the wreckage of local fires. In November of 2008 their first show featured monolithic statues, spiral wall installations and free-standing art pieces fashioned from fragments of corroded wood, twisted metal and shards of glass.

On the opening day, flutes of champagne were passed as visitors viewed the 90 works of reclaimed art incorporating materials from the previous fire site. More than 500 exhibit visitors raised $12,000 in donations for Cisco Homes and the charity group Making Education the Answer.

Since fires are never scarce in Southern California, ART from the Ashes has held two other shows. Artwork in their October 2009 show incorporated debris from the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens fire, and materials for their more recent June 2010 show came from the ruins of the station fire at the Deukmejian Wilderness Park in Glendale.

“With every site we visit, we always find new and inspiring pieces to make into art,” said Feuer. “That’s the beauty of it. You never know what you’ll find.”

In the three years since their first show, ART from the Ashes has featured more than 350 pieces of reclaimed art created by an expanding collective of 95 artists. Artists are permitted to combine outside mediums with their fire-scarred finds, and all proceeds from their works go directly to those who suffered in the fire.

“Many people are shocked when they realize that something good can come out of this. That the remains from their fire can help them rebuild what they lost,” Feuer said.

In addition to helping each fire’s victims, ART from the Ashes benefits the artists who participate in the program by challenging them to work with new and different materials. Some artists have experimented with making ceramic glaze out of ash, and ink out of charcoal; whereas others have turned molten copper plates into stylish cuff bracelets. Feuer describes the endeavor as a growing experience for the artists, pushing them to think beyond the norm and work with corroded and misshapen objects not normally found in nature.

With their fourth show now running in Glendale through mid-December, ART from the Ashes decided to try something new. Titled Inspire, the entire show is dedicated to the artists who donated their works in past shows, and features both reclaimed fire-site art and some of the artists’ outside works. All of the proceeds are going directly to the artists this time, since 100 percent of their previous fire artworks were donated to the cause.


–Published in Whole Life Times Magazine, December 2010–