Origins and History of the Fire Arts Center The Fire Arts Center is a unique facility dedicated to the special art forms using fire. The idea began with artist Peggy Dickinson who was interested in working with glass but recognized that a group facility was essential to meet the cost of glass working equipment and need for multiple artists to assist with the physically demanding process. The idea was to create a place where fire art forms could be explored by students and artists to all levels, where continuing education and experimentation could occur, and where economies of a cooperative studio environment could sustain a facility. It was further recognized that Humboldt County is an area rich with art talent but many artists, including recent graduates, are unable to make the substantial capital investment necessary for a sophisticated working studio for fire arts. A core of interested people began the exploration of a community facility for glass, ceramic, metal casting and blacksmithing.
In partnership with the Arcata Economic Development Corporation and the Ink People Center for the Arts, a grant was obtained by the Center for Environmental Economic Development from the Pacific Telesis Foundation through the efforts of Barbara O'Neal, Maggie Gainer and others for a feasibility study which concluded that the center was financially feasible. A lengthy search for start-up funding and a suitable facility began since industrial zoning is required for foundry and kiln operations. The City of Arcata was very supportive throughout the search. The plan was to finance the facility through economic development and art grant programs but, for a variety of reasons, the steering committee succeeded in obtaining just one economic development grant from Pacific Gas and Electric. With the help of Maureen Hart, the Center later received a small grant from the Department of Commerce, Division of Recycling for window glass recycling, but art grants never materialized. Meanwhile, the steering committee formed for the feasibility study continued to raise funds through seconds sales in partnership with the Potters Guild. Guild members donated many art pieces and sales were conducted with the help of Alex Stillman and Celebration Hall. Despite these efforts, the project stalled until Peter Brant decided to purchase the property on South G Street in Arcata that is now the home of the Fire Arts Center, the Fire Arts Foundry, Fireism and Brant Electric. When Peter and Peggy put out the call, all of the original steering committee members rallied and became the founders and original investors in Fire Arts, Inc. Peter Brant, George Bucquet, Peggy Dickinson, Bruce LeBel, Noel Munn, Barbara O'Neal, Cathy Ray Pierson, and Alex Stillman put countless hours into the organizing and financing of the Center's startup. They were joined by Libby Maynard from our nonprofit partner organization, Ink People Center for the Arts, and later by Shelley Mitchell, our final founding board member and investor.
Today, the Fire Arts Center is a unique facility offering studio memberships and classes to students of ceramics, glass fusing and slumping, glass torch work, bronze casting and blacksmithing. Year-round classes are available for beginners and advanced students. Membership is available so experienced artists can use well developed facilities at an affordable cost. Professional artist-members generously share their technical expertise and encouragement. Workshops are offered from time to time in specialized techniques. The considerable expense of operating Fire Arts Center is paid through class fees, studio membership fees, gallery sales, periodic fund-raising events and donations. Members and students contribute to the survival of the center by performing necessary chores, volunteering for fund raisers and donating art pieces for sale. The goal of Fire Arts Center is to encourage artistic development by providing a self-sustaining facility dedicated to this purpose and to serve as an educational center for the exchange of ideas. Suggestions for classes, projects, activities, and workshops are welcomed. Since the time of its creation, the Fire Arts Center has participated in numerous community projects including skate parks, Bowl of Beans, The Ink people, Arts Arcata, Open Studios, the North County Fair, the Oyster Festival, Godwit Days and numerous community events. An estimated 600 students and artists have used the facility since its inception in 1999. Future goals include increased art gallery sales, additional firing capacity, expanded glass facilities and new classes.
Want to know more? Come visit the Fire Arts Center at 520 South G Street.
The above summary was written in 2007. Fast forward to 2023. Fire Arts Center is now a well-established studio for ceramic and glass art. Unfortunately, there is no longer a foundry or blacksmith operation. The clay and glass activities have become very successful. Classes are usually filled within hours of announcement. This spring there will be 21 different classes including beginning and advanced wheel throwing, hand building, specialized decorating, and others. Clay or glass studio open membership is available on a monthly basis for artists who don’t feel the need for a class and wish to explore independently. Children’s classes are also available. FAC has multiple employees to manage enrollment, finance, and instructors as well as mix glazes and operate the kilns. Recently, an additional facility, Studio 10, was added on a next-door property which has additional mid-range clay and glass equipment as well as class and private studio FAC is financially self-supporting through fees generated from membership, class tuition and sales commissions from member artists. Seasonal sales occur to help artists support their craft and to clean house. Large ceramic kilns fire weekly resulting in rapid turnaround for work. The center was able to survive covid due to grants, PPP loans and the continued support of its members and staff. Fire Arts is a business corporation owned by seven local people who are committed to the long-term operation of the center as both a business and community resource dedicated to art, creativity, fellowship and positive energy.
Diane Sonderegger Fire Arts Board Treasurer and Member since 2002
Fire Arts Center 520 S. G Street Arcata, CA 95521 (707) 826-1445 www.fireartsarcata.com email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fire Arts Studio 10 550 S. G Street #10 Arcata, CA 95521