Big Medium Reopens Gallery Following Fire

by Jessica Fuentes February 21, 2024

Big Medium, an Austin-based nonprofit art organization, has announced that it will reopen its gallery on Friday, February 23, following a fire that took place last month.

Three side-by-side photographs of the Big Medium gallery affected by fire.

Left: Big Medium’s gallery before the fire. Middle and right: the gallery after the fire.

In the early morning of Monday, January 15, a fire broke out in the 3,852-square-foot gallery, damaging the building and destroying a piece in the exhibition No Kings But Us, a collaborative show featuring work by Robert Hodge and Tim Kerr. Big Medium’s Executive Director, Shea Little, told Glasstire that the organization is still working with their insurance company to determine if the lost artwork will be covered. However, Mr. Little explained that regardless of the insurance determination, the artists will be compensated for the work. According to an announcement by Big Medium, the remaining works from the exhibition have been cleaned and restored and the gallery has been rebuilt. 

Mr. Little explained, “Paper conservators have inspected the works and consulted on the cleaning process. We are still in the process of meeting with the conservators to make sure all the artworks are in good condition. The majority of what we are dealing with is soot and ash on the artworks and frames. We are using hake brushes to gently remove any soot from the artwork itself and microfiber cloths to remove soot from the frames. A good number of the framed works are being repainted as well. We’ll be doing a final inspection of the works before reinstalling them [on February 21].”

The fire is believed to have been caused by unhoused individuals who were trying to stay warm on a night when temperatures in Austin were below freezing. Following the incident, Big Medium launched a campaign to raise $25,000 to cover costs related to repairs. Though an official update has not been shared via the Big Medium website or social media pages, Mr. Little told Glasstire that Big Medium has raised $27,000. He noted that about $6,000 of the funds were raised through an art fundraising exhibition, to which nearly 100 artists contributed work. The artists and the organization split the proceeds from the sales 50/50. Of the funds Big Medium received from its auction, it is giving 15% to an organization that supports unhoused families and individuals. Mr. Little stated that a majority of the donations came from individual contributors, including current and new supporters. 

A black and white photograph of a performance taking place in a gallery.

“No Kings But Us” opening reception performance at the Blaffer Museum of Art

The gallery’s reopening will be marked with reception for No Kings But Us, which will be on view through March 2. Both artists, Mr. Hodge and Mr. Kerr, will be in attendance at the event. Additionally, Mr. Kerr will guide a collaborative jazz piece performed by Thor Johnson, Allyson Lipkin, Nick Moulos, Ben Webster, and others. The reopening reception will be from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Friday, February 23.

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