Fire at Brickyard

A fire destroyed Brickyard Pottery & Gallery's kiln shed and damaged the kiln. A fundraising campaign is underway to help the business rebuild.

BARRONETT– Brickyard Pottery & Gallery is raising money to replace its kiln and the shed that housed it after a fire destroyed the shed on April 3 and irreparably damaged the hand-built kiln.

A burning barrel fire spread to the shed, but the combination gallery and home was spared with only some second-floor siding melted by the heat.

“So thankful for fire departments and community or the whole place would surely have burned to a crisp,” said Virginia Streitz, co-owner of the gallery with her husband, Jason. The two bought the brick-schoolhouse-turned gallery in the fall of 2019 and moved there with their two daughters when founders and potters Brian and Mary Dosch retired from the gallery after 40 years

Virginia is a potter and painter, and Jason is a musician.

“Nearly two years ago we learned that this picturesque old schoolhouse, restored to a pottery studio, gallery and home, was for sale,” the Streitzes said. “We felt called upon to be the next custodians of Brickyard Pottery. It really didn’t feel like a choice. The stars had aligned and we met the opportunity. We uprooted our lives and took the leap from Minneapolis to NW Wisconsin with our two kids.

“2020 presented us with so many challenges affording us the endurance to face this one. We’re not giving up,” they said.

They will reimagine and rebuild.

“Fires make way for new possibilities,” they said. “With its destruction comes opportunity for revitalization. Friendships with neighbors have strengthened. Friends and family have nourished us with affirmations that we can get through this. We’ve been reenergized and are truly seeing this as an opportunity. We have gone from despair to invigoration. This is a chance to pause and take stock of what’s really important to us.

“We’ve always wanted to move toward a co-operative model, to invite others to use our tools, share our space, and build skills together. We aim to be a stronger bridge to the gap between rural and urban folks. We have all found in this last year of isolation that we need each other. We strive to be a vehicle for the arts and a vibrant community gathering place,” they said.

The fire ignited a chance to integrate those partnerships and long-term goals more rapidly, and how that might be done is emerging as they talk with artists, neighbors, patrons – and kiln vendors.

“From the ashes we want to build on this spirit of community and offer space for others to come and share in the work,” the Streitz said. “The insurance company does not see the value of the beautiful shed and kiln, built by Brian and Mary Dosch, or our need for it in order to pay our mortgage.”

Because other people do see the value, a friend started a gofundme.com campaign listed for “Brickyard Pottery Kiln –­ Jason and Gena Streitz.”

As of Tuesday, $16,000 of the $20,000 goal had been raised. Depending on the kiln they purchase, the goal would cover most or a good share of a new kiln and shed. The Streitzes are talking with builders and getting quotes on gas- and wood-fired kilns, looking for the one that Jason said would serve them for the next 40 years.

The summer season is around the corner, and luckily a kiln-full load of pottery had been removed not long before the fire, and a potter in Glencoe, Minnesota, about three hours away, has offered the Streitzes space on May 1 in an “ancient” wood-fired kiln shared by several potters to help them build up their inventory.

“We’re just putting one foot in front of the other,” Jason said, as the couple considers their options.

“We’re very optimistic,” he added.

Meanwhile, the gallery is full and is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. With the kiln taking precedence, plans to build an outdoor music and performance stage this summer are temporarily on hold.

Donations can be made through gofundme.com or sent directly to Brickyard Pottery & Gallery, W9008 Brickyard Rd., Shell Lake, WI, 54871.

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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