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Talent Maker City grows, takes ‘optimism’ into 2022

Photo courtesy of Talent Maker City | The Gateway mural project in Talent.

Talent Maker City wrapped up 2021 with a hearty list of projects completed and plans for new activities in the coming year, on the path to purchasing land to build a permanent home for the nonprofit’s programs and maker space.

This year, Talent Maker City and partners worked with 42 students to build 55 beds for families whose homes burned in the Almeda fire, according to a Dec. 28 blog post on the TMC website. In the Phoenix-Talent School District, families of nearly 700 students lost their homes in the September 2020 fire.

The building workshops “provided necessary resources for fire-impacted families,” and “education and skill building for students who were directly impacted by the fire, allowing for them to be a direct part of the solution, therefore creating healing and resilience in the process,” the TMC team said in the post.

Students learned carpentry, electrical, plumbing and other retrofitting skills through The Bus Project, which focused on converting two school buses into transitional housing for fire-impacted families.

Over the summer, 250 students participated in STEAM camps, learning to build go-carts, mosaics and ukuleles, welding and social media campaigning alongside instructors trained in trauma-informed care, to better serve fire-impacted students and families, the team said.

Through the Gateway Mural Project, student artists submitted concepts that were formed into a mural surrounding the transitional housing project in Talent established to assist families displaced by the fire — a partnership among the Talent Urban Renewal Agency, city of Talent and Phoenix-Talent School District.

Alli French stepped in to the interim executive director position following co-founder Ryan Wilcoxson’s departure in the fall. Three new staff members joined the team, including an intern-now-staff member, outreach and engagement coordinator and administrative specialist.

“With the addition of new staff, we will be better able to serve local communities with our hands-on programming and workshops,” French and the team said in the post.

In June Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, directed $1.8 million toward TMC to design and construct a permanent facility to house the nonprofit in downtown Talent. Funding will support land purchase, planning, permitting, equipment, systems development charges and construction of an 8,500-square-foot facility.

The allocation was one of three projects in Oregon House District 5 slated to receive funding from $240 million set aside by the Oregon Legislature for direct community investments under the American Rescue Plan Act.

In the spring, the state received $4.2 billion of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package, from which $240 million was allocated to each legislative district. Each state representative received $2 million and each senator received $4 million for one-time expenditures in their districts.

“Over and over again, Talent Maker City has stepped up to help the community recover and thrive after the Almeda wildfire,” Marsh said Wednesday. “Now TMC needs a home of its own. State money and the new location will ensure that TMC can continue to nurture and support youth and the small businesses at the heart of the community.”

Looking ahead, TMC plans to offer an adult workshop series, continue Rise Up and Rebuild workshops (including finishing The Bus Project), and roll out a new membership structure starting in February, intended to improve community accessibility, according to the post.

“With funding to build our own space, new staff, and restarting our workshops and programs, I find myself filled with grateful optimism for the future of TMC,” French said in the post. “I also see this optimism in the youth that we serve. Their perspective, energy and connection is what reminds me of what we all have the innate capacity to create.”