WHY? After an emergency, don’t assume that your artwork and studio contents are a total loss.

The keys to successful first aid are:

✔ understanding the agents that are causing damage and the materials affected

✔ establishing priorities and proceeding cautiously

✔ recognizing when you need professional help…and also when items are not worth the effort to save them.

Steps to Salvaging Your Art Studio After a Disaster

First Steps

Make a list of salvage priorities. Some guidelines:

  • Focus on general categories of your studio’s contents — art, assets, and archives — rather than the details of particular items.
  • Assess which career-related and business records are most vital to your creative practice, and which are duplicated elsewhere.
  • What tools and equipment are most essential to resuming your work? What can be replaced or easily repaired?
  • Evaluate the sentimental or monetary value of artwork (yours and others’).

Determine the resources you’re going to need:

  • Figure out how many volunteers you’ll need, what specialized skills will be most helpful, and line up the work crew(s).
  • Identify items that need professional attention as soon as possible. See DIY or Hire a Pro?
  • Set up a dry, secure area with access to clean water for salvage operations. If no dry space is available, protect items with plastic sheeting.
  • Assemble triage and salvage supplies and equipment, including protective gear.


Puzzle iconSecond Steps

Get information about your community’s guidelines for hazardous waste disposal.

Review safety precautions — including the need to wear protective gear — with your work crew. (Remember: people with respiratory conditions or who have immunity impairment should not be exposed to mold).

Review moving and handling guidelines with your work crew:

  • Handle art objects as little as possible.
  • Be aware that damage from the heat of a fire may have weakened materials and/or adhesives.
  • When moving heavy textiles, provide physical support, such as a rigid board or heavy sling.
  • Leave delicate wet fabrics folded; don’t stack them.
  • Before removing soot or ash, protect floors with plastic.

Review general triage guidelines and salvage priorities with your work crew:

  • Leave undamaged items in place (if environment is stable).
  • Isolate contaminated and unsalvageable items and materials, and arrange safe disposal as soon as possible. Do not dispose of toxic or contaminated materials by putting them in the trash or pouring them down the sink.
  • Separate wet, damp and dry items.
  • Separate moldy items, and cover them with plastic sheeting.
  • Separate damaged from undamaged items.
  • Separate out coated paper-based materials.

“My friends, and many organizations came to my rescue and helped me get back on my feet. This amazing amount of support allowed me to recover much of my work and archive, and the disaster forced me to delve into my work completely, and this was a blessing…”

Mixed Media Artist + Beneficiary Golnar Adili

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