“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
~Henry David Thoreau
In the face of natural disaster, where others see devastation, Joy Feuer – and the many artists & volunteers who work with her – see opportunity for transformation and renewal. Life is often about new beginnings. Since 2008 Joy’s non-profit organization, ART From the Ashes, has been helping communities and individuals rebuild from the ashes of their former lives.
The concept for ART From the Ashes came to life autumn of 2007, during one of the most destructive fire seasons in the history of California. AFTA was created to use the cathartic properties of art as a means of supporting the renewal of lives devastated by wildfire. Members travel to a disaster site and from it reclaim materials – burnt wood, ruined household goods, architectural elements, anything that inspires – to be transformed into works of art and later sold at an exhibition-auction benefitting the effected community.
The process is deeply meaningful for Joy.
“We have seen up close and personal the powerful connection and healing properties that our art programming has on communities in Southern and Central California,” she said. “In the wake of disaster…watching what occurs to people and places, in that moment, you are there as well. Its human nature to want to help in any way possible. In the actions of ART from the ashes, we can provide resource and support to communities in need. Art provides a connection, provokes inspiration and invites hope. There are no boundaries geographically or creatively. Our desire is to honor this and expand our mission to help as many people as possible.”
Since its founding, AFTA has held exhibitions on behalf of META (Making Education the Answer), the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Deukmejian Wilderness Park, and the Japan Society Earthquake Relief Fund.
Currently it is involved with local Texas artists, residents, businesses and community organizations in planning art-based fundraising initiatives designed to benefit those affected by the Bastrop County Complex Fire. (This series of wildfires has destroyed over 34,000 acres of land, 1,649 homes, and claimed two lives.) The effort involves more than a hundred artists and will include a benefit exhibition to be held March 2012 in Austin, Texas. Proceeds will be used to aid the community of Bastrop and support the volunteer firefighters which battled the blazes.
The use and re-use of what lies at hand epitomizes the philosophy of sustainability. In its work AFTA embraces that ideal, not only using reclaimed items for the foundation of art but also using repurposed materials in the creation of each chosen exhibition space.
“We seek out reclaimed wood, glass, fabric, corrugated metal, windows and furnishings for design elements so the gallery environment supports the body of works…and also rings true with AFTA’s philosophy of practice (waste not, have more),” said Joy. “The complimentary energy between art and the environment of the space, seems to resonate as people usually remain at our exhibitions for hours on end, it seems to beckon interaction.”
As a non-profit the organization has championed opportunities for artists, including media exposure and private & public commission work. Joy hopes to continue to break new ground in this respect. She would also like to broaden AFTA’s geographical impact, ideally by enabling additional “chapters” to form as they are needed for community disaster relief.
To learn more, including how to help, please visit the ART From the Ashes website.