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Art show features work inspired by Almeda fire

Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio

The show , featuring the work of two local artists, is being held in a burned-out garage in Talent.

Artist Bonnie Morgan stands in the shell of the 98-year-old Malmgren garage, one that held her pottery supply business before it burned down in 2020.

Morgan is now working on restoring this historic building to bring life back to downtown Talent.

“When the building burned I just felt like there was enough of it left that it really deserved to be rebuilt – not really realizing how many design problems there were gonna be," she says. "And I wanted to just really save something for Talent, save something from before the fire.”

One of the major design challenges is the way the building is sloped; the entire foundation gently slopes downward, making the redesign process difficult.

Morgan applied for a main street revitalization grant from the state, one she’s optimistic about winning. The grant will help close the gap between the cost of reconstruction and the payout from her insurance.

The garage was built in 1924 by Dr. Theodore J. Malmgren as a service station for automobiles. It'll retain the traditional stepped roof design, a common architectural style in the 1920's.

Morgan and the designers say they're working to get the building listed as a National Historic Landmark.

The renovation will make room for three separate business spaces — as well as two apartments in the back.

Morgan says the she and the designers are adding the housing to help improve availability in the area. Thousands of homes were destroyed in the fire; and since then rental prices have shot up.

Morgan and fellow artist Cici Brown are hosting a community art show on May 7th from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m., featuring work inspired by the fire.

Roman Battaglia
Jefferson Public Radio
Morgan's pottery features a firing technique know as Saggar firing, where various litter such as wood chips, corn husks and steel wool is wrapped up with the pottery in tin foil before going in the kiln, creating the burned patterns.

“We’ll have over forty artists. All the way from paintings and drawings, sculpture, photography, clay, metalwork, our metal sculpture pieces," Morgan says. "So there’s gonna be a full range of work.”

Some of the pieces at the show come from the rubble of the garage itself, like metal sculptures taken from the collapsed roof.

Morgan says her pottery work has changed dramatically since the fire, shifting from colorful pieces to ones incorporating earth tones and techniques that simulate burn marks on the pottery.

Brown, who curated the show, has also started production of a documentary highlighting the building’s restoration.

Some of the pieces at the show are also being sold to raise funds for the restoration of the 98-year-old garage. Morgan hopes the garage is one of the first storefronts to be rebuilt after the fire.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.