May 2, 2024 - Things to Do

Art Snack: Bonnie Meltzer's Burned Piano

woman in front of a burned piano

Fabric artist Bonnie Meltzer and the Burned Piano Project at the Oregon Jewish Museum. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Artist Bonnie Meltzer and musician Jennifer Wright salvaged a burned Steinway piano for art's sake — and the sake of healing.

Flashback: A series of arsons at a mosque and two synagogues in 2022 are part of the catalysts for the exhibit.

  • Also a victim of the arsons at that time, according to Meltzer and Wright, was a Jewish family's Portland home and office. The family escaped but most of their possessions were burned, including their grandmother's baby grand piano.
  • Axios could not find a news account of the home fire.

Zoom in: Meltzer and dozens of volunteers crocheted and wove the recovered copper and steel piano strings into a tapestry depicting the sun rising over a black landscape.

  • Wright took some of the keys and made a new piano, where the hammers hit glass rods instead of strings — now on display at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education.

Zoom out: Meltzer is a textile and social practice artist who invites volunteers to help with the handicrafts.

  • She follows the 2,000-year-old saying of Rabbi Tarfon, about the work of mending the social fabric: "It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it."

If you go: "The Burned Piano Project: Creating Music Amidst the Noise of Hate" is open through the end of June, including guided tours and concerts.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Portland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Portland stories


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Portland.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more