ART From the Ashes Reseeding With Creativity

A California nonprofit helps Bastrop recover by making art from fire-damaged materials

Pat Johnson built <i>The Restoration</i> on a burnt bunny recovered from a fire site in Bastrop, enhancing it with pieces of earthenware and glaze. It pays tribute to the animals, amphibians, birds and pines in the area, and to the fragility of the environment.
Pat Johnson built The Restoration on a "burnt bunny" recovered from a fire site in Bastrop, enhancing it with pieces of earthenware and glaze. It pays tribute to the animals, amphibians, birds and pines in the area, and to the fragility of the environment.

Against the obliterating force of a wildfire, art stands no more of a chance than anything else. But in the wake of that fire, art can be one of the quickest aids to recovery, taking root and bearing fruit before any tree, rebuilding the spirit of a place before any edifice can be restored. That is the operating principle of ART from the Ashes, a nonprofit established after California was ravaged by wildfires in 2007. With an aim to "support, inspire, create, [and] renew," it invites artists to reclaim materials from fire sites and use them in artwork that is then exhibited and can be sold to support recovery efforts in the affected area. Though all five assistance projects to date have taken place in California, ART from the Ashes leaders found themselves so moved by the devastation of Bastrop County by wildfires last September that they decided to come to Texas and launch their sixth project here. In October, a team visited and began lining up area artists to take part, as well as a space to exhibit their work in the spring. Materials were obtained from sanctioned sites in Bastrop, and the creative repurposing began. To provide support locally, art collective Big Medium signed on as creative partner.

Last week, ART from the Ashes launched its benefit efforts for Bastrop. On Saturday, April 21, the organization sponsored "Works On Wood," an event with Bastrop area youth creating artwork from reclaimed loblolly pine rounds. This Saturday, it opens the exhibition of art created from the reclaimed fire materials. Seventy loblolly pines recovered from Bastrop State Park have been installed throughout the gallery space in the historic Starr Building, 121 W. Sixth, so visitors can feel they're wandering through the Lost Pines as they view art by more than 60 artists. Most are Texas-based – Stella Alesi, Bale Creek Allen, Jill Bedgood, Debra Broz, Brooke Gassiot, Shea Little, Mark L. Smith, and Jon Langford (who created the show logo), to name a few – but they also include ART from the Ashes founder Joy Feuer and AFTA board members Stacy Conde, Shannon Curfman, and Amanda Overton. The opening reception April 28, 6-10pm, includes drinks and snacks, plus music by the Aiana String Quartet (suggested donation $30). As the exhibition continues through May 5, with the gallery open from noon-7pm, other special events are scheduled (see below), each with suggested donations of $10. All proceeds benefit the Lost Pines Recovery Team's restoration efforts in Bastrop County. Funds will be used for reseeding native grasses and wildflowers, planting loblolly pines and hardwoods, and controlling soil erosion. For more information, visit


Texas Bluegrass by the Lost Pines

Sunday, April 29, 3-5pm

Art & Fire Ecology Panel Discussion

Wednesday, May 2, 6:30-9pm

Ecologist/artist Dr. Hayley Gillespie discusses fire ecology and how it has been depicted in the arts through the ages. The ecology of the Lost Pines of Bastrop County, its native species, and how endangered species may be affected by the Bastrop County fires will be discussed by Mike Forstner (professor of biology, Texas State University); Meredith Longoria (biologist, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department); Greg Creacy (Natural Resources & Fire Coordinator for State Parks, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department); and Christina Andruk (Ph.D candidate Ecology, Evolution & Behavior, University of Texas – Austin). Rachel Rommel of the Houston Zoo will bring an endangered Houston Toad.

Blues and Soul by the Peterson Brothers Band

Saturday, May 5. 3-4pm

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ART from the Ashes, Bastrop wildfires, Big Medium

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